Carcinosarcoma (previously referred to as malignant mixed Müllerian tumours [MMMT])
Carcinosarcoma is a rare type of tumour that accounts for one to three per cent of ovarian cancers. These tumours are similar to epithelial tumour types and sometimes referred to as metaplastic carcinomas. They can arise in any of your reproductive organs (ie ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus (womb) etc.). These are treated with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
Small cell ovarian carcinoma
This is an aggressive type of ovarian cancer with a tendency to grow quickly. It most commonly develops in young women (below the age of 30) and is often associated with a high calcium level in the blood (hypercalcaemia).
Unfortunately with so few cases of small cell ovarian cancer there has been relatively little research into new drugs specifically targeting this type. small cell ovarian cancer. There has been a recent review of cases of small cell ovarian carcinomas which concluded that surgery is appropriate treatment, especially in very early stages of disease, but chemotherapy should also be considered.
Non-small cell neuro-endocrine carcinoma (large cell variant) (NSCNEC)
Classical primary carcinoid (well differentiated neuroendocrine cancer)
Classical carcinoid metastatic from primary gastrointestinal site
Atypical carcinoids or high grade neuroendocrine carcinomas can also rarely occur.
Treatment with somatostatin analogues (drugs which slow down the production of hormones) could help to control symptoms and stabilise these slow-growing tumours.
Squamous cell carcinoma rising within dermoid cyst
Dermoid cysts (or mature teratomas) are the commonest ovarian tumours and are nearly always benign (non-cancerous). However, in a rare number of cases (one to two per cent) these can be malignant (cancerous), typically in postmenopausal women.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common type of cancer that arises from a dermoid cyst. They are often diagnosed late because of symptoms of pressure symptoms or torsion (twisting of the ovary) and the resulting abdominal/tummy pain, and usually occur in older women. If diagnosed at an early stage, these can usually be treated by surgery alone. For more advanced stages, surgery may need to be combined with chemotherapy; however, because these tumours are extremely rare, the best type of chemotherapy has yet to be defined.
Struma ovarii malignum
Struma ovarii is a variant of mature teratoma which contains thyroid tissue. They account for only three per cent of ovarian teratomas and generally have a low malignant (cancerous) potential so can usually be successfully treated with surgery alone. In younger women, conservative fertility-sparing surgery can be considered, to preserve the possibility of becoming pregnant later on, with possible further surgery after a woman has completed her family. Read our Younger women section for more information on fertility-sparing surgery.
Serous psammocarcinoma is a rare variant of serous carcinoma arising either from cells in the ovary or peritoneum. It is usually treated by surgery alone, although in some cases chemotherapy will also be used. As this type of ovarian cancer is so rare, the best type of treatment has not yet been identified.
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Last reviewed: June 2018
Next review: May 2021