Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
The term "ovarian cancer" includes several different types of cancer that all arise from cells of the ovary. Most commonly, tumors arise from the epithelium, or lining cells, of the ovary. These include epithelial ovarian (from the cells on the surface of the ovary), fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal (the lining inside the abdomen that coats many abdominal structures) cancer. These are all considered to be one disease process. There is also an entity called borderline ovarian tumors that have the microscopic appearance of a cancer, but tend not to spread much.
However, there are also less common forms of ovarian cancer that come from within the ovary itself, including germ cell tumors and sex cord-stromal tumors. All of these diseases will be discussed, as well as their treatment.
Epithelial ovarian cancer
Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) accounts for a majority of all ovarian cancers. It is generally thought of as one of three types of cancer that include ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer that all behave, and are treated the same way, depending on the type of cell that causes the cancer. The four most common cell types of epithelial ovarian cancer are serous, mucinous, clear cell, and endometrioid. These cancers arise due to DNA changes in cells that lead to the development of cancer. Serous cell type is the most common variety. It is now thought that many of these cancers actually come from the lining in the fallopian tube, and fewer of them from the cells on the surface of the ovary, or the peritoneum. However, it is often hard to identify the sources of these cancers when they present at advanced stages, which is very common.
Ovarian cancer may not produce symptoms, particularly in the early stages. However, when symptoms do occur, they include:
Abdominal bloating or a feeling of pressure
Abdominal or pelvic pain
Feeling satiated quickly when eating
These symptoms, of course, occur with many different conditions and are not specific to cancer. You should discuss these symptoms with your doctor if they occur frequently and persist for more than a few weeks.