Ovarian Disorders: Types of Ovarian Cancer

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  • 0:03 Types of Ovarian Cancer
  • 0:53 Epithelial Tumors
  • 2:34 Germ Cell Tumors
  • 3:35 Gondal Stromal Tumors
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Heather Adewale

Heather has taught reproductive biology and has researched neuro, repro and endocrinology. She has a PhD in Zoology/Biology.

You're probably familiar with breast cancer, but did you know that areas of the female reproductive tract can get cancer as well? Learn about the most common types of ovarian cancer in this lesson.

Types of Ovarian Cancer

I'm sure you've all heard of breast cancer, right? You've seen the walks where everyone wears pink or participated in breast cancer awareness month by wearing a pink ribbon. But how many of you have heard of ovarian cancer? And of those, how many know that ovarian cancer is actually more deadly than breast cancer?

So, what exactly is ovarian cancer? Well, it's just what it sounds like - the presence of cancer cells within the ovarian tissue of the female reproductive tract. But it's not quite that simple. See, the type of ovarian cancer present depends on the location of those cancer cells. And while there are many types of ovarian cancer, we're going to simplify it by giving you the three main categories.

Epithelial Tumors

Let's start with the most common. Epithelial tumors actually make up about 90% of all ovarian cancers, so they win the medal for the most common form of ovarian tumors. And remember, a tumor is simply an abnormal growth of tissue. Sometimes these can be benign, meaning non-cancerous, and these are usually harmless, like a weird bump that you might get on your skin for no reason. It's kind of annoying that it's there, but other than that it doesn't really bother you.

But sometimes tumors can be more dangerous. Cancer-producing tumors are called malignant tumors and, these can be harmful, especially if they get into the bloodstream or lymph nodes and spread to other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis.

Okay, now that we have some of the general cancer terminology down, let's get back to epithelial tumors. This particular form of ovarian cancer is found, as the name suggests, in the epithelial lining, or outer layer of tissue covering the ovary. That would be this part, right here. Think of it like the skin of the ovary.

And while many tumors found on the epithelium are benign, those that are malignant are very dangerous due to their lack of symptoms, their difficulty to diagnose and their ability to spread to other parts of the body. In fact, almost 70% of women with epithelial cancer of the ovary are not diagnosed until the later stages of the disease! This is because many of the symptoms are often confused with those of PMS or indigestion.

Germ Cell Tumors

And, sticking with the easy naming system of location, germ cell tumors are found within the germ cells inside the ovary. In case you need a refresher, germ cells are the cells that produce ova, or eggs, in the female. That's these, right here.

This is where egg production takes place, so you can imagine that a tumor there would probably interfere with fertility, right? And, unfortunately, these types of tumors are more common in young women of reproductive age. But they usually only affect one ovary, meaning that the other ovary can be perfectly functional and able to produce eggs.

Similar to epithelial tumors, many germ cell tumors are also benign. However, unlike epithelial cancer, malignant germ cell tumors are usually caught before they become too dangerous, and around 90% of women with this type of ovarian cancer can be treated and have their fertility restored.

Gonadal Stromal Tumors

So, what about the last group, gonadal stromal tumors? If you remember from your basic bio lessons, you may be able to break this one down. Gonadal is referring to what? The gonads, right? Which in this case of the female are the ovaries. See how simple that was?

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