Understanding the type of cancer, if and how it has spread (the stage), and the potential aggressiveness of the cancer (the grade) can help you when discussing your diagnosis, treatment and prognosis with your specialist. However, some women may not wish to know so much detail – it is a personal choice.
There are several different ovarian cancer types, classified by the types of cells and tissue they originate from. Your age can affect your susceptibility to these different types of ovarian tumours, and the type of ovarian cancer you have may influence your treatment options now and in the future.
Ovarian tumours tend to develop from three kinds of tissue:
- Approximately 90 per cent come from epithelial cells which form the surface layer covering the ovaries. Epithelial cell tumours (sometimes referred to as carcinomas) usually occur in women older than 50 years.
- Around five per cent come from the stromal cells (these cells make up the core of the ovaries). Stromal cell tumours may occur in women of any age although certain tumours, such as androblastomas, may be more common in adolescence.
- Five per cent from the germ cells. Germ cells in the ovary are the cells that develop into eggs. Germ cell tumours usually occur in younger women.
There are also rarer types of ovarian cancer, for example sarcomas which arise from the connective tissue within the ovary.
Recent research revealed that ovarian cancer in fact often starts growing from the fallopian tubes. Ovarian cancers, fallopian tube cancers and a third category called peritoneal cancers (cancer such as primary peritoneal cancer that arises in the peritoneum [a large, thin, flexible sheet of transparent tissue that covers the organs inside your tummy/abdomen]) look very similar during an operation and under a microscope and are treated in the same way.
Find out more about the different types of ovarian cancer
- High-grade serous
- Low-grade serous
- Clear cell
- Undifferentiated or unclassified
- Primary peritoneal
- Brenner tumours
- Borderline tumours
Find out more
Last reviewed: June 2018
Next review: May 2021