If the ovaries develop abnormal cells that grow uncontrollably, it may be a type of gynecologic cancer. Ovarian cancer may affect one or both ovaries.
The two ovaries—walnut-shaped organs located on each side of the uterus in the pelvic area—control your reproductive cycle. Your ovaries create important female hormones and the eggs (ova) released each month for possible fertilization during your reproductive years.
Often, ovarian cancer goes undiagnosed until the cancer reaches an advanced stage. Early stages of ovarian cancer have few symptoms and tend to go unnoticed or are misdiagnosed. Symptoms of ovarian cancer often match those of a digestive problem. Noticing changes in how your body functions and seeing a gynecologic oncologist will help you receive early treatment and the best outcome. Mount Sinai has extensive experience diagnosing and treating ovarian cancer.
When an ovarian tumor is present, your gynecologic oncologist will need to find out the type of tumor you have. We do this by examining you, understanding your symptoms, and analyzing the cells of your tumor through a biopsy to determine if it is cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). This biopsy is usually performed as part of a surgery to remove the tumor. We will personalize your treatment plan based on our diagnosis.
Your ovarian tumor may be one of the following types:
- Epithelial cell tumors—the most common type of ovarian cancer tumor. These tumors grow in the cells that line or cover the ovaries. Epithelial cell tumors may also develop in the fallopian tubes that carry the eggs produced in the ovaries to the uterus. They may also develop in the tissue that lines the abdominal wall (peritoneum).
- Germ cell tumors—start in the ovarian cells that form eggs. Germ cell tumors tend to occur in young women or are in their reproductive years. Diagnosed at an early stage, germ cell tumors are curable.
- Sex cord-stromal cell tumors—begin in the connective cells that hold the ovaries in place and produce female hormones. Sex cord-stromal cell tumors tend to occur in women past menopause.