Ovarian cancer is a growth of abnormal malignant cells that begins in the ovaries (women’s reproductive glands that produce eggs). Cancer that spreads to the ovaries but originates at another site is not considered ovarian cancer.
Ovarian tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Although abnormal, cells of benign tumors do not metastasize (spread to other parts of the body). Malignant cancer cells in the ovaries can metastasize in two ways:
- directly to other organs in the pelvis and abdomen (the more common way)
- through the bloodstream or lymph nodes to other parts of the body
While the causes of ovarian cancer are unknown, some theories exist:
- Genetic errors may occur because of the repeated “wear and tear” of the monthly release of an egg.
- Increased hormone levels before and during ovulation may stimulate the growth of abnormal cells.
- Fallopian tubes are the site of origin in a fraction of ovarian cancers.