Sex cord-stromal tumours

About 5 in every 100 cases of ovarian cancer are sex cord-stromal tumours.

There are many different types of ovarian sex cord-stromal tumours (SCSTs). They can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). SCSTs develop from cells in the core of the ovary that surround the egg cells. 

Ovarian sex cord-stromal tumours are rare. They make up around 5 in every 100 cases of ovarian cancer.

Most ovarian sex cord-stromal tumours (60–95 per cent) are diagnosed at stage 1 and treated by surgery alone. When diagnosed at more advanced stages, or if they recur (come back), a combination of surgery and chemotherapy is usually used. 

There are several different subtypes of ovarian sex cord tumours. They can behave and respond differently to treatment. 

Ovarian stromal tumours with sex cord elements

Adult type granulosa cell tumours

Granulosa cell tumours mainly happen in adults. They start from sex cord tumours and stroma (tissue in the ovary that has a connective or structural role). 

Treatment usually involves surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible. As the tumours tend to be fairly slow growing they don’t tend to respond very well to chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Hormonal treatment can also be used for recurrent cases (if the cancer has come back) when surgery isn’t an option anymore. 

Juvenile type granulosa cell tumours

Juvenile granulosa cell tumours are granulosa cell tumours that happen at an early age (usually in early puberty). These are rare and are different from the granulosa cell tumours seen in adults. 

If caught at an early stage, the primary treatment is surgery. For tumours diagnosed at a later stage, surgery is often combined with chemotherapy. 

Sertoli–Leydig cell tumours (androblastomas)

Sertoli-Leydig tumours are rare sex cord-stromal ovarian tumours. They’re most commonly characterised by virilisation, a condition in which a female develops male sex characteristics. This can include a lower pitch of voice, baldness or thicker body hair and pelvic masses (lumps) as a result of male hormone (testosterone) production by the tumour. Most Sertoli-Leydig cell tumours aren’t malignant (cancerous) and can be cured by surgery. 

Those who are younger and diagnosed at an early stage may be able to discuss fertility-preserving surgeries. This will keep the possibility of becoming pregnant later on. You may have additional risk factors to consider and should receive chemotherapy and long-term follow up. You should discuss your individual situation and options with your specialist. 

Other types

These include:

  • gynandroblastoma 
  • sex cord tumour with annular tubules (SCTAT) 
  • unclassified 

Pure stromal tumours

  • Thecoma
  • Fibroma
  • Fibrosarcoma

Other ovarian stromal tumours

  • Sclerosing stromal tumour 
  • Signet-ring stromal 
  • Microcystic stromal tumour 
  • Ovarian myxoma 
  • Stromal-Leydig cell tumour 

Steroid cell tumours

  • Stromal luteoma 
  • Leydig cell tumour 
  • Steroid cell tumour, not otherwise specified 
Rachel and Val Target Ovarian Cancer nurse advisers

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Last reviewed: April 2022

Next review: April 2025

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