There are different types of ovarian cancer you should be familiar with.
The ovaries are made up of three types of cells. Each cell can develop into a different type of tumor:
- Epithelial tumors form in the layer of tissue on the outside of the ovaries. About 90% of ovarian cancers are epithelial tumors
- Stromal tumors grow in the hormone-producing cells. About 7% of ovarian cancers are stromal tumors.
- Germ cell tumors develop in the egg-producing cells. Germ cell tumors are rare.
Aside from tumors, cysts can also form and pose certain dangers.
Most ovarian cysts aren’t cancerous. However, a very small number can be cancerous. But what is a cyst anyway? How is it different from tumors?
For starters, an ovarian cyst is a collection of fluid or air that develops in or around the ovary. Most ovarian cysts form as a normal part of ovulation, which is when the ovary releases an egg. They usually only cause mild symptoms, like bloating, and go away without treatment.
Cysts are more of a concern if you aren’t ovulating. Usually, women stop ovulating after menopause.
If an ovarian cyst forms after menopause, your doctor may want to do more tests to find out the cause of the cyst, especially if it’s large or doesn’t go away within a few months.
If the cyst doesn’t go away, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove it just in case. Note that your doctor can’t determine if it’s cancerous until they remove it surgically.
What might cause ovarian cancer?
The exact cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. But these factors can increase your risk:
- Family history of ovarian cancer
- Genetic mutations of genes associated with ovarian cancer,
- Personal history of breast, uterine, or colon cancer
- Use certain fertility drugs or hormone therapies
- No history of pregnancy
Older age is another risk factor. Most cases of ovarian cancer develop after menopause.
It’s possible to have ovarian cancer without having any of these risk factors. Likewise, having any of these risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get ovarian cancer.