Cancer of the ovaries is the ninth most common cancer in women. Approximately half of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are age 60 or older. About one out of every 71 women will get invasive ovarian cancer.
The ovaries are glands that are part of the female reproductive system. A woman normally has two ovaries with one located on each side of the uterus in her pelvis. The ovaries produce eggs (also called ova) and release them into the fallopian tubes. The eggs travel to the uterus where they implant and grow into a baby if they are fertilized. The ovaries also produce most of the body’s supply of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Types of ovarian cancer:
Ovarian cancer is cancer that develops on or in the ovaries. There are three kinds of tissue in the ovary that can develop ovarian tumors:
• Epithelial cells – These cells are the covering of the ovary. Most epithelial ovarian tumors are benign, which means they are not cancerous. But nearly nine out of 10 ovarian cancers are this type.
• Germ cells – These are the cells inside the ovary that develop into eggs. This kind of tumor is usually benign, which means it is not cancer. However, it is possible for these tumors to become a life-threatening type of cancer.
• Stromal cells – These are the cells that produce hormones in the ovaries. These cells also provide the connective tissue that holds the ovary together. Most tumors of this type are found in women over age 50, although some also appear in young girls. This type of tumor can produce abnormal female hormones that cause problems with the menstrual cycle. They can also produce male hormones that can cause periods to stop and also cause the growth of hair on the face and body.
Risks for ovarian cancer:
Researchers have not been able to determine exactly why ovarian cancer starts. These are some of the indicators that show a possible increased risk of this type of cancer:
• Family history – Women who have a close blood relative who has had ovarian cancer are at increased risk of getting it.