NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Ovarian Cancer - page 7

Part 1: About ovarian cancer
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NCCN Guidelines for Patients
: Ovarian cancer
Version 1.2013
The belly area
between the chest and
Fallopian tube:
Organ that
eggs travel through from an
ovary to the uterus
Menstrual cycle:
in the uterus and ovaries
that prepare a woman’s
body for pregnancy
The pair of
organs in females that
make eggs and hormones
The female organ
where babies grow during
What is ovarian cancer?
Epithelial cells form the outer layer of tissue around the ovary. This layer of
tissue is called the epithelium. See Figure 1. Most ovarian cancers start in
the epithelial cells. Ovarian cancer that starts in these cells is called epithelial
ovarian cancer, but is simply referred to as ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer cells
can grow out of control as well as spread to and grow into (invade) other tissues
and organs. Ovarian cancer often invades the Fallopian tubes and uterus.
Borderline ovarian cancer
Borderline ovarian cancer has cells that have developed the abnormal capacity
to spread from the ovary and grow on other organs in the belly area (abdomen).
However, they have not developed the abnormal capacity to invade normal
tissues. They are abnormal, but aren’t clearly cancer. Borderline ovarian cancer
(also called a low malignant potential tumor) is very rare. Borderline ovarian
cancer tumors often grow big enough to press against other organs, but the
cells don’t grow into (invade) tissue the way that fully cancerous cells do.
This booklet focuses on the treatment for epithelial ovarian cancer, but also
discusses treatments for borderline ovarian cancer.
How ovarian cancer spreads
Unlike normal cells, cancer cells can spread and form tumors in other parts of
the body. This process is called metastasis. Cancer cells can replace or damage
normal tissue and cause organs to stop working.
Ovarian cancer cells can break off from the primary tumor to form new tumors
on the surface of nearby organs and tissues in the abdomen. These are called
“seeds” or “implants.” Implants that grow into supporting tissues of nearby
organs are called invasive implants.
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