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There is a wide variety of different ovarian sex cord-stromal tumours and they can be either benign or malignant. They develop from cells that support and surround the oocytes (immature egg cells), including the cells that produce ovarian hormones (the non-germ cell and non-epithelial components of the ovaries).

Ovarian sex cord-stromal tumours are rare, comprising approximately 3-5 per cent of all primary ovarian cancers. The majority of ovarian sex cord-stromal tumours (60-95 per cent) are diagnosed at Stage I and treated by surgery alone. When diagnosed at other stages, or as a recurrence, a combination of surgery and chemotherapy is used.


Esther's story

"At 37 years old, Esther didn’t think ovarian cancer was something she had to worry about… Looking back, I didn’t really have all that many symptoms. I’d been to my GP’s surgery on a number of occasions because I was feeling very tired, but they just kept giving me iron tablets."

There are several different subtypes of sex cord ovarian tumours and steroid cell tumours, which can behave and respond differently to treatment:

Ovarian stromal tumours with sex cord elements

Adult type granulosa cell tumours

Granulosa cell tumours mainly occur in adults. They arise from sex cord tumours and stroma (structure of the ovary). Treatment usually consists of surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, as the tumours tend to be fairly slow growing they do not tend to respond very well to chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Juvenile type granulosa cell tumours

Juvenile granulosa cell tumours are granulosa cell tumours which occur at an early age (most commonly in early puberty), these are rare, and are different from the granulosa cell tumours seen in adults. If caught at an early stage surgery is the primary treatment. For later stage diagnosis surgery is often combined with chemotherapy.

Sertoli–Leydig cell tumours (also called androblastomas)

Sertoli-Leydig tumours are rare sex cord stromal tumors of the ovary, most commonly characterized by virilisation (a condition in which a female develops male sex characteristics for example lower pitch of voice, baldness or thicker body hair) and pelvic masses (lumps). Most sertoli-leydig cell tumours are not malignant (cancerous) and can be cured by surgery. Women who are diagnosed at early stage and are younger may be able to discuss fertility-preserving surgeries (more information in our Younger Women section). Some have additional risk factors to consider and should receive chemotherapy and long-term follow up.

Other types of ovarian stromal tumours with sex cord elements include:

  • Gynandroblastoma
  • Sex cord tumour with annular tubules (SCTAT)
  • ​Unclassified

Pure stromal tumours

  • Thecoma
  • Fibroma
  • ​Fibrosarcoma

Other ovarian stromal tumours

  • Sclerosing stromal tumour
  • Signet-ring stromal
  • Microcystic stromal tumour
  • Ovarian myxoma
  • Stromal–Leydig cell tumour

Steroid cell tumours

  • Stromal luteoma
  • Leydig cell tumour
  • Steroid cell tumour, not otherwise specified

Find out more 


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Last reviewed: May 2016
Next review: April 2019