Ovarian epithelial cancer (OEC), also known as surface epithelial-stromal tumor, is characterized by malignant (cancerous) cell proliferation in the tissues covering the ovaries.
A woman’s ovaries are located one on each side of the uterus where the fetus grows. The ovaries produce eggs and female hormones.
Microscopic features determine whether or not the tumor is benign, borderline or malignant. (Borderline tumors contain uncertain malignant potential.) Through microscopic elvuation, an OEC can appear cystic (fluid filled sac) and/or fibrous.
To identify the tumors behavior, OEC is divided into the following stages:
- Stage 1: Cancerous cells are detected in one or both of the ovaries.
- Stage IA: Cancerous cells are found in only one of the ovaries.
- Stage IB: Cancerous cells are found in both ovaries.
- Stage IC: Cancerous cells are detected in one or both of the ovaries as well as on the ovary’s outside surface. In many cases, the tumor has broken the ovary wall and cancerous cells are detected in fluid from the peritoneal cavity which contains most of the organs in the abdomen.
- Stage II: Cancerous cells are found in one or both of the ovaries and has spread into various areas of the pelvis.
- Stage IIA: Cancerous cells have spread to the uterus and/or fallopian tubes (the long narrow tubes where eggs pass from the ovaries to the uterus).
- Stage IIB: Cancer has spread to other tissues within the pelvis.
- Stage IIIC: Cancerous cells have spread and all of the above are true.
- Stage III: Cancerous cells are detected in one or both ovaries and has spread to various parts of the abdomen as well as the liver’s surface.
- Stage IIIA: The stromal tumor is only detected in the pelvis but cancerous cells have begun to spread to the peritoneum’s surface (the tissue that lines the abdominal wall and protects several organs of the abdomen).
- Stage IIIB: Cancerous cells have begun to spread or have already spread to the peritoneum, but appear to be less than 1 inch in diameter.
- Stage IIIC: Cancerous cells have begun to spread or have already spread to the peritoneum and appear to be more than 1 inch in diameter, and has spread to lymph nodes in the abdomen as well.
- Stage IV: Cancerous cells are found in one or both ovaries and has begun to spread or has already spread farther than the abdomen to the liver.
The prognosis of OEC depends on the stage of the tumor, as well as its DNA ploidy (amount of DNA in each cell). An individual’s prognosis also depends on the tumor’s location as well as its histiology (shape, function, structure of tumor cells). In any case, there is a possibility that the tumor will grow during treatment or reoccur after treatment is given.
Several risk factors may influence ovarian epithelial cancer development:
- History of Breast Cancer
- Previous Estrogen Replacement Therapy
- Family History: Having a first-degree relative (mother or sister) with any type of ovarian cancer elevates your OEC risk.
- Age: OEC rarely occurs in women younger than 40. This disease typically develops after menopause begins. Half of OEC cases occur in women over the age of 63.
- Obesity: Studies have linked obesity to OEC development.
- Reproductive History: Women that have bore at least one child have reduced OEC risk.
- Fertility Drugs: Women that have taken Clomiphene Citrate, also known as Clomid for a year or more have increased OEC risk.