Getting to Know The 3 Primary Types of Ovarian Tumors

three kinds of ovarian tumorsWhile the term “ovarian tumor” can spark a lot of anxiety in a woman, the detection of one does not necessarily mean you have cancer.

In fact, many ovarian tumors are benign and do not spread outside of the ovaries. That being said, they can be malignant, and then the best course of treatment must be determined.

There are primarily three kinds of tumors which may develop in the ovaries. These are: epithelial tumors, germ cell tumors, and stromal tumors.

The name of the tumor is derived from the type of cells which make up the particular ovarian tumor, as well as whether or not it is a malignant tumor or a harmless one.

Epithelial Tumors

The first type of ovarian tumor is the epithelial tumor. The germinal epithelium is a cellular layer which is found surrounding the ovary. These tumors are the type most frequently found in post-menopausal women, between the ages of 45 and 70. If a woman has ovarian cancer, nearly three-fourths of the time it is the epithelial variety.

Typically, this type of tumor is not cancerous. They usually do not cause any serious health issues, and they don’t generally spread. Various types of epithelial tumors exist, such as Brenner tumors, mucinous adenomas, and serous adenomas.

Germ Cell Tumors

Germ cell tumors are the second type of ovarian tumor. These tumors develop from the cells that form the eggs, the germ cells. They are more likely to develop in younger females, starting as early as their teen years. Only a small percentage of cancers found in the ovaries are due to germ cell tumors.

Although these can be life-threatening if malignant, the success rate for treating this type of ovarian cancer is very high. Unfortunately this type of ovarian cancer often leads to lifelong infertility. There are several different kinds of germ cell tumors. The more common ones are endodermal sinus tumors, teratomas, choriocarcinomas, and dysgerminomas.

Stromal Tumors

The third type of ovarian tumor is known as the stromal tumor, and it is quite rare compared to the epithelial type. These arise from the hormone-producing cells which make up the structure of the ovary. Women between the ages of 40 to 60 are the most likely to develop stromal tumors, although a small percentage of this type of ovarian tumor develops in young girls.  An estimated 5% to 10% of ovarian cancer is due to stromal tumors. Chemotherapy may be required for this type of cancer, but if it did not spread then surgery may be all that is required.

Granulosa cell tumors are usually the type of stromal tumors which are cancerous. This type of ovarian tumor often causes unusual vaginal bleeding. Because stromal tumors produce estrogen, they can cause both pre-pubescent girls to start having periods and post-menopausal women to have experience bleeding much like the periods they used to have.

Stromal tumors occasionally produce male hormones as well, causing menstruation to cease. When these male hormones are produced it may also cause hirsutism, which leads to hair growth on the face and body. This type of tumor can also bleed, which can cause sharp abdominal pain. The prognosis for women with malignant stromal tumors is typically very good. The detection of an ovarian tumor is not always a serious thing. As stated previously, the majority are benign. For the few that do turn out to be malignant, treatment is often successful.

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