Ovarian Cancer General Information

The ovaries are a part of the female reproductive organs which produce egg cells every month during a woman's reproductive cycle. Ovarian cancer is a disease where cancer cells are found within the ovaries.

                                Ovarian cancer can be most efficiently discussed
                                using the terms TYPE, GRADE, and STAGE.


    There are actually almost 40 different types of ovarian cancer. However, there are more commonly three main types that occur. 9 out of 10 women are diagnosed with common epithelial ovarian cancer.  These are also called adenocarcinomas, malignant tumors of epithelial origin which begin in glandular tissue.  Another type of ovarian cancer is the germ cell tumor of the ovary where the cancer is found in the egg-making cells of the ovary. This type is uncommon, usually occuring in teenage girls or young women. Finally, sex cord, or stomal cell ovarian cancer, begins in the cells that hold the ovaries together and produce female hormones. This type is also uncommon in comparison with epithelial.


    The grade of ovarian cancer refers to the degree at which it spreads throughout the body. There are four grades(0-3) and are described as follows:
                                            Borderline: Grade 0--spreads slowly
                                            Well differentiated: Grade 1--spreads a little more quickly
                                            Moderately differentiated: Grade 2--spreads rapidly
                                            Poorly or Undifferentiated: Grade 3--spreads very rapidly


    The stage of ovarian cancer plays a very important role in describing the severity of the cancer. There are four stages of ovarian cancer.
                                        Stage 1: This indicates cancer is limited to the ovary or ovaries
                                        Stage 2: This indicates the cancer has spread to the pelvis
                                        Stage 3: This indicates cancer has spread to the abdomen
                                        Stage 4: This indicates cancer has alos spread to the liver
    These stages have proven themselves very important in terms of survival rates. 9 out of 10 women survive when ovarian cancer is diagnosed within Stage 1. In contrast, less than 2 out of 10 omen survive when cancer has spread to stages 3 or 4. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is most often discovered in Stages 3 or 4 because the symptoms(discussed later) are so mild in the early stages.