What Is Ovarian Cancer?



‘Ovarian cancer’ is not a singular diagnosis, rather it is an umbrella term for a multitude of different types of cancer that affect the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the primary peritoneal cavity. It is estimated that there are more than 30 different types of ovarian cancer, and there is a very wide variation in incidence and outlook in terms of the different types.

Ovarian cancer is the most lethal of the female cancers for which there is no reliable screening test, and every person assigned female at birth is at risk.  With delays in diagnoses due to this lack of screening and because symptoms are often confused with other, less severe, illness, most people are diagnosed once the cancer has already spread, making it more difficult to treat. While every woman is at risk, ovarian cancer is overlooked and underfunded.


Types of Ovarian Cancer

There are different types of ovarian cancer tumours, which are named after the type of cell they come from, the three main cell types that make up the ovary. They are:

Types of Ovarian Cancer

Epithelial ovarian cancer

Comes from the surface of the ovary (the epithelium), and is the most common ovarian cancer. Fallopian tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer are also included in this type of ovarian cancer.

Germ cell ovarian cancer

Comes from the reproductive cells of the ovaries. Germ cell ovarian cancer is rare.

Stromal cells ovarian cancer

Comes from connective tissue cell. Stromal cells ovarian cancer is also very rare.

Small cell carcinoma (SCCO) of the ovary

This is an extremely rare ovarian cancer and it is not certain whether the cells in SCCO are from ovarian epithelial cells, sex-cord stromal cells or germ cells.


Anatomy of Ovaries

Anatomy of Ovaries

Many of our partner organizations have useful information and resources. For more detailed information about ovarian cancer, you may wish to contact one of these groups more local to you.