When you receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis, your medical team will aim to identify the type and subtype of ovarian cancer.
Understanding the type of cancer (the histotype) can help you when discussing your diagnosis, treatment and prognosis with your specialist. However, some women may not wish to know so much detail – it's a personal choice.
There are several different ovarian cancer types, classified by the types of cells and tissue they originate from. Your age can affect your susceptibility to these different types of ovarian tumours, and the type of ovarian cancer you have may influence your treatment options now and in the future.
Ovarian tumours tend to develop from three kinds of tissue.
Approximately 90 per cent come from epithelial cells, which form the surface layer covering the ovaries. Epithelial cell tumours (sometimes referred to as carcinomas) usually occur in women older than 50 years.
Five per cent come from the germ cells. Germ cells in the ovary are the cells that develop into eggs. Germ cell tumours usually occur in younger women.
Around five per cent come from the stromal cells (these cells make up the core of the ovaries). Stromal cell tumours may occur in women of any age although certain tumours may be more common in adolescence. Granulosa cell tumours are an example of a stromal cancer.
There are also rarer types of ovarian cancer, for example sarcomas, which arise from the connective tissue within the ovary.
Some cancer is now being categorised as fallopian tube cancer as opposed to ovarian cancer as recent research revealed that some ovarian cancers in fact start growing from the fallopian tubes. Fallopian tube cancer is treated in the same way as ovarian cancer and is usually included in ovarian cancer clinical trials.
Women diagnosed with primary peritoneal cancer (PPC) that arises in the peritoneum (a large, thin, flexible sheet of transparent tissue that covers the organs inside your tummy/abdomen) are also often treated in the same way as women with ovarian cancer as it is believed to be the same disease.
This information is reviewed regularly and is in line with accepted national and international guidelines. All of our publications undergo an expert peer review and are reviewed by women with ovarian cancer to ensure that we provide accurate and high-quality information. To find out more take a look at our information standards.
Last reviewed: June 2018
Next review: May 2021
Keep in touch with us!
Sign up to receive emails from Target Ovarian Cancer, including our monthly newsletter, and be the first to hear about campaigns, upcoming events and fundraising inspiration.