What Is Ovarian Cancer?

Ovarian cancer develops in the cells of the ovary, the female reproductive organs that produce eggs and the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

With nearly 22,000 new cases in the United States each year, ovarian cancer is the ninth most common form of cancer among women. Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer today live an average of five times longer than women affected by the disease 30 years ago due to significant advances in how we detect and treat ovarian cancer, as well as increased awareness of symptoms that are associated with ovarian cancer.

Types of ovarian cancer

There are three types of ovarian tumors, named for the tissue in which they are found, including:

  • Epithelial cell: The cells that cover the surface of the ovary. While most ovarian epithelial tumors are benign (noncancerous), malignant ovarian epithelial tumors are the most common and dangerous form of ovarian cancer.
  • Germ cell: The cells that form the eggs in the ovary.
  • Stromal cell: The cells that form the structural tissue of the ovary and produce hormones.

Extraovarian primary peritoneal carcinoma (EOPPC) is a cancer closely related to epithelial ovarian cancer, except that it occurs in the peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen. Because it occurs outside the ovary, women who have had their ovaries removed can still develop this type of cancer. EOPPC can mimic ovarian cancer in terms of symptoms and can also cause an increase in the CA-125 tumor marker. Treatment is similar to that for ovarian cancer which includes chemotherapy and surgery.

Related Resources

Ovarian Cancer Treatment Guide