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Learn more about the different types of ovarian cancer, and subtypes.

Peggy's story

"The results indicated that it was clear cell ovarian cancer. This is a rare type of ovarian cancer, and only affects about four per cent of women with ovarian cancer."

Understanding the type of cancer, if it has spread (the stage), and the potential aggressiveness of the cancer (the grade) can help you when discussing your diagnosis and treatment options 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 as more research is carried out.

Ovarian tumours tend to develop from three kinds of tissue:

  • Approximately 85 to 95 per cent come from epithelial cells. Epithelial ovarian cancer means the cancer started in the surface layer covering the ovary. Epithelial cell tumours usually occur in women older than 50 years. These are sometimes referred to as carcinomas.
  • Five to eight per cent come from stromal cells. The stroma is the supportive tissue of the ovary. Stromal cell tumours may occur in women of any age, although certain tumours, such as androblastomas, may be more common in adolescence.
  • Three to five per cent from germ cells. Germ cells are the cells in the body that develop into sperm and eggs. Germ cell tumours usually occur in younger women.

There are some rarer types of ovarian cancer that do not come from these cells. One example is another category of cancer called a sarcoma which is a type of cancer which occurs in the body’s connective tissue (tissue that supports, connects, or separates different types of tissues and organs in the body).

Some women's cancer is now being categorised as fallopian tube cancer, as opposed to ovarian cancer as there is evidence that some ovarian cancers have in fact originated in the fallopian tube. Fallopian tube cancer is treated in a very similar way to ovarian cancer and is usually included in ovarian cancer clinical trials.

Find out more about the different types of ovarian cancer

Epithelial ovarian cancer

Germ cell tumours

Stromal cell tumours and steroid cell tumours

Rarer types of tumour


Find out more 


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Last reviewed: May 2016
Next review: April 2019