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Ovarian / Fallopian Tube / Primary Peritoneal Cancer

Ovarian cancer

Ovarian Cancer is a gynecologic cancer that begins in the ovaries, which are female reproductive glands that produce eggs (ova) for reproduction as well as the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. There are three general types of ovarian cancer:

Dr. McLean in her lab
  • Epithelial ovarian cancer, which forms on the surface of the ovary in the epithelial cells. This is the most common type of ovarian cancer; about 85% to 90% of ovarian cancers are epithelial ovarian carcinomas.
  • Germ cell tumors form from the ova or eggs. Most germ cell tumors are benign, but some are cancerous. Germ cell tumors are an uncommon form of ovarian cancer; less than 2% of ovarian cancers are germ cell tumors.
  • Sex cord-stromal tumors start in the cells that produce female hormones and hold the ovarian tissues together. This is a rare form of ovarian cancer; about 1% of ovarian cancers are ovarian sex cord-stromal cell tumors.

Fallopian tube cancer

Fallopian tube cancer is a gynecologic cancer that begins in the tube that carries an egg from the ovary to the uterus (the fallopian tube). It is similar to epithelial ovarian cancer; fallopian tube cancer and ovarian cancer have similar symptoms and treatment. It is a rare cancer.

Primary Peritoneal cancer

Primary peritoneal cancer begins in the lining of the abdomen and pelvis, called the peritoneum. The cells of the peritoneum are very similar to the cells on the surface of the ovaries and some experts believe that primary peritoneal cancer actually starts in the lining of the fallopian tube. Primary peritoneal cancer looks just like epithelial ovarian cancer under the microscope and at surgery looks the same as epithelial ovarian cancer that has spread throughout the abdomen, so sometimes it can be difficult to tell where the cancer started. Primary peritoneal cancer has very similar symptoms to ovarian cancer and it is treated the same way.


In general, the symptoms of ovarian, fallopian and primary peritoneal cancer tend to be non-specific and include:

  • Abdominal swelling or bloating (due to a mass or accumulation of fluid)
  • Pelvic pressure or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (having to go urgently or often)
  • Fatigue
  • Menstrual changes
  • Pain during sex