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Ovarian Cancer Facts and Types

Our Approach

Shannon Westin, M.D., M.P.H., is focusing on biomarkers that can help predict patient response to ovarian cancer treatments. She is also involved in several clinical trials for new therapies. 

A team of some of the nation's top experts works together to address your specific condition when you come to MD Anderson's Gynecologic Oncology Center for ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment. This group follows you every step of the way, communicating and collaborating closely to deliver outstanding care. Their aim is to deliver the most advanced ovarian cancer therapies with the least impact on your body.

You benefit from this approach, as well as the expertise of some of the nation's top radiologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists and pathologists. They are joined by a support staff extensively trained to provide the highest level of care for ovarian cancer.

Care Planned Just For You

Your treatment for ovarian cancer is personalized to include leading-edge technologies and techniques. These may include advanced surgical procedures, chemotherapy options and targeted therapies. In addition, we offer treatment for benign (not cancer) tumors of the ovaries.

We are one of the most active centers in the nation for treatment of rare ovarian cancers, offering the highest level of care, as well as clinical trials and innovative approaches, including targeted therapies.

Surgery often is needed to diagnose ovarian cancer, and it often is the first line of treatment. Because MD Anderson is a leading cancer center with one of the most active ovarian cancer programs, our surgeons have a high level of expertise that sets them apart from many others.

Personalized Medicine

We are leaders in studying ovarian cancer on the molecular level and translating research into advanced ways to find and treat the disease. Through our high risk ovarian cancer screening clinic and gynecologic cancer genetics clinic, we offer genetic testing for women with hereditary breast ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOC) and other high-risk inherited conditions.

MD Anderson leads the nation in innovative research into the causes, prevention, detection and treatment of ovarian cancer, including rare ovarian cancers. In fact, we are one of the few cancer centers in the nation to house a prestigious federally funded ovarian cancer SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) program. This means we offer a variety of clinical trials of new treatments for ovarian cancer.

If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer or are at high risk, it is important to be seen by experts. We can help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Innovative ovarian cancer treatments, including targeted therapies
  • Highly skilled and experienced surgeons
  • Genetic testing for women at high-risk of ovarian cancer
  • Specialized care for rare ovarian cancers
  • Treatment for benign ovarian tumors
  • Nationally recognized ovarian cancer research program with multiple clinical trials
  • Aggressive ovarian cancer is part of MD Anderson's Moon Shots Program: an ambitious effort to reduce cancer deaths through the rapid discovery and implementation of new treatments

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Ovarian Cancer Survivor Judith Buelow

Judith Buelow

"I get goose bumps and well up with tears when someone calls me a cancer survivor."

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Ovarian Cancer Facts

Each year, about 22,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. While it is the ninth most common cancer (other than skin cancer) in women, ovarian cancer is the fifth high cause of cancer death in women. Most women who develop ovarian cancer are older than 60. It is found more often in white than African-American women.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer often are vague or like other conditions. This may make it hard to diagnose. It often has spread to other parts of the body when it is found.

Over the past 20 years, the five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer has improved a lot. Progress continues to be made, and MD Anderson is leading research into early detection, prevention and treatment.

Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries, which are part of a woman’s reproductive system. One ovary is on each side of the uterus (womb). They are oval and produce eggs (ova) that travel through the Fallopian tubes to the uterus. The eggs may be fertilized by sperm and grow into a fetus. Ovaries also make the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Ovarian Cancer Types

Some tumors found in the ovaries are benign (not cancer) and do not spread beyond the ovary. Others are malignant (cancer) and can spread to other parts of the body.

There are many types of ovarian cancer. Some types of ovarian cancer are extremely rare and require specialized treatment.

The main three types, which are listed below, are named for the cells where they start.

Epithelial: About 90% of ovarian cancers start in the epithelium tissue, which is the lining on the outside of the ovary. This type of ovarian cancer is divided into serous, mucinous, endometrioid, clear cell, transitional and undifferentiated types. The risk of epithelial ovarian cancer increases with age, especially after the age of 50.

Germ cell: Germ cell tumors account for about 5% of ovarian cancers. They begin in the egg-producing cells. This type of ovarian cancer can occur in women of any age, but about 80% are found in women under the age of 30. The main subtypes are teratoma, dysgerminoma, endodermal sinus tumor and choriocarcinoma.

Sex cord stromal: These tumors, about 5% of ovarian cancers, grow in the connective tissue that holds the ovary together and makes estrogen and progesterone. Most are found in older women, but sometimes they occur in girls.

Sex cord stromal tumors usually do not spread as fast as other ovarian tumors. Sub-types include granulosa, granulosa-theca and Sertoli-Leydig cell tumors.

Primary peritoneal carcinoma is a rare cancer. It has cells like those on the outside of the ovaries, but it starts in the lining of the pelvis and abdomen. Women can get this type of cancer even after their ovaries have been removed. Symptoms and treatment are similar to ovarian cancer.

If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center