Note: The information on cancer types on the ACRF website is not designed to provide medical or professional advice and is for information only. If you have any health problems or questions please consult your doctor.
Ovarian cancer is a cancerous, or malignant, tumour in one or both of the ovaries. A family history of this cancer is the strongest risk factor for developing it.
The ovaries are made up of germ cells, stromal cells and epithelial cells and each of these is susceptible to different cancers.
Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common type, representing nine out of 20 types. It develops in the epithelium, which is the surface of the ovary.
Borderline tumours are a group of epithelial tumours that don’t spread as quickly as other forms of ovarian cancer.
Germ cell and sex-cord stromal cell ovarian cancer develop in the cells that release female hormones. This is a very uncommon form of ovarian cancer, and generally affects women under 30 years of age.
Ovarian cancer treatment
Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves ‘debulking’ surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, followed by combination chemotherapy.
The first treatment stage of ovarian cancer is generally an operation called a laparotomy, to look inside the abdomen. A vertical cut is made and the ovarian tumour removed for examination. If cancer is confirmed and the disease appears confined to the ovary, a ‘staging laparotomy’ will take place, involving biopsies taken from the omentum, peritoncum and lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread.
In women who want children, it is sometimes possible to remove only one affected ovary and its adjoining fallopian tube. If the cancer has spread beyond one ovary, debulking usually requires removing both ovaries and their adjoining fallopian tubes, the uterus, and pelvic lymph nodes. Debulking makes chemotherapy more effective.
To destroy any remaining tumour cells, a doctor may prescribe chemotherapy.
Radiotherapy is rarely used as a primary treatment for ovarian cancer, but rather as part of overall treatment.
If the cancer has spread and a cure is not possible, palliative treatments can relieve problems caused by cancer including pain.