What is Ovarian Cancer?

Understanding Ovarian Cancer

Cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissue.  Ovarian cancers are a group of diseases that affect a woman’s ovaries.

There are several types of ovarian cancer.  While these diseases are all called “ovarian” because they affect the ovaries, they are actually unique in terms of their origin, how they look under a microscope, treatment and prognosis.

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).

Because fallopian tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer are generally treated the same way as ovarian cancer, much of the information in this section can also apply to those two cancers. MOCA serves and welcomes women who are diagnosed with fallopian tube and primary peritoneal cancer in addition to ovarian cancer.

Additionally, ovarian cysts are different than ovarian tumors, and can be fairly common—ovarian cysts are fluid-filled while ovarian tumors are solid masses. Most ovarian cysts are not harmful, don’t cause symptoms and are not indicative of risk for future ovarian cancer, though some complex ovarian cysts may raise the risk.

Information in the Ovarian Cancer A-Z section is provided by the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA). MOCA is a partner member of this national research and advocacy organization.