Ovarian cancer begins in the cells that form the
ovaries. Among these cells are surface epithelial cells,
germ cells, and the sex cord-stromal cells. This is why
cancer cells that metastasize from other organ sites to the
ovary are not called ovarian cancer. Breast and colon
cancers are examples of such cancers.
It has been observed that the majority of women with
epithelial ovarian cancer are not diagnosed early enough.
The diagnosis is done only when the disease has reached an
advanced stage. By that time, the cancer spreads to the
upper abdomen (stage I) or beyond (stage II). The chance of
these women surviving five years is only 15 to 20 percent.
But the chance of survival for the same period is 90% for
patients in stage I, and about 70% for stage II
Some ovarian tumors are benign, in which case the
patient can be cured by surgically removing one ovary or
the part of the ovary hosting the tumor. Some are malignant
or cancerous. Malignant ovarian tumors are generally of
three types: epithelial tumors, germ cell tumors and
Epithelial tumors, accounting for most of the cases,
develop in a layer of cube-shaped cells known as the
germinal epithelium, which surrounds the outside of the
ovaries. Its victims are mostly teenagers and young women.
Germ cell tumors are not so common, and are found in the
egg-maturation cells of the ovary. These patients can not
only be cured, but also their fertility protected.
Dangerous if allowed to spread, stromal tumors originate
from connective tissue cells that hold the ovary together
and produce the female hormones estrogen and
All ovarian tumors are not cancerous. Benign cysts,
dermoid tumors, and borderline malignant tumors all are
distinct from ovarian cancer. These are curable and rarely