Understanding ovarian cancer

There’s a lot to learn and understand about ovarian cancer. Simply put, ovarian cancer is cancer that starts in the ovaries or fallopian tubes. The female reproductive system is a complex, life-making machine. Home to three different kinds of cells, it may breed potential for cancer to start in any one of those cells and form tumors.1 The cell where the tumor starts may determine the type of ovarian cancer.2 And then, each tumor may be given a stage number and grade (two different things) to diagnose the severity.

What are the types of ovarian cancer?

There are more than 30 different types of ovarian cancer. Here are the three common types of cells where ovarian cancer may start, along with their respective tumors:3, 4

  • Surface epithelium: These are cells that cover the outer lining of the ovaries. Tumors that grow here are called epithelial tumors. This kind accounts for about 90% of ovarian cancers.
  • Germ cells: These are egg-producing cells. Germ cell tumors are considered rarer and usually show up in younger women.
  • Stromal cells: These cells produce hormones. Stromal tumors may often be diagnosed at an earlier stage compared to others.

How can I get checked for ovarian cancer?

If you think you may have symptoms of ovarian cancer, schedule a visit with your primary provider (the doctor or provider you might see for your yearly exam). It’s a good idea to get regular pelvic exams as a way to help check for signs of ovarian cancer. If your doctor has any concerns, they may refer you to someone who specializes in female reproductive cancers. Here’s the information you may consider bringing for a conversation with your doctor:

  • Your symptoms
  • Your personal and family health history
  • Any medicines you may be taking
  • Your questions or concerns

Here’s another tip — consider bringing someone with you. You’ll have company in the waiting room and another set of ears to help remember what your doctor may say.