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Ovarian Cancer - Child

To view this article in the new Rare Cancers Australia Knowledgebase, click here 

Definition of ovarian cancer:

Cancer that forms in tissues of the ovary (one of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed). Most ovarian cancers are either ovarian epithelial carcinomas (cancer that begins in the cells on the surface of the ovary) or malignant germ cell tumors (cancer that begins in egg cells).

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the ovary. The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female reproductive system. They are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus (the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a fetus grows). Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries produce eggs and female hormones (chemicals that control the way certain cells or organs function).

Anatomy of the female reproductive system; drawing shows the uterus, myometrium (muscular outer layer of the uterus), endometrium (inner lining of the uterus), ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and vagina.

Anatomy of the female reproductive system. The organs in the female reproductive system include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, and vagina. The uterus has a muscular outer layer called the myometrium and an inner lining called the endometrium.

Most ovarian tumors in children are benign (not cancer). They occur most often in females aged 15 to 19 years.

There are several common types of malignant ovarian tumors:

  • Germ cell tumors: Tumors that start in egg cells in females. These are the most common ovarian tumors in girls. (See the summary on Extracranial Germ Cell Tumors - Child in the A-Z List of Cancers  for more information on ovarian germ cell tumors.)
  • Epithelial tumors: Tumors that start in the tissue covering the ovary. These are the second most common ovarian tumors in girls.
  • Stromal tumors: Tumors that begin in stromal cells, which make up tissues that surround and support the ovaries.
  • Other tumors, such as Burkitt lymphoma and small cell carcinoma of the ovary (a very rare tumor).

Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Diagnostic and Staging Tests

The risk of ovarian cancer is increased by having one of the following conditions:

  • Ollier disease (a disorder that causes abnormal growth of cartilage at the end of long bones).
  • Maffucci syndrome (a disorder that causes abnormal growth of cartilage at the end of long bones and of blood vessels in the skin).
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome.

Ovarian cancer may cause any of the following signs and symptoms. Check with your child’s doctor if you see any of the following problems in your child:

  • Painful menstrual periods.
  • A lump in the abdomen.
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen.
  • Having male sex traits, such as body hair or a deep voice.
  • Early signs of puberty.

Other conditions that are not ovarian cancer may cause these same symptoms.

Tests to diagnose and stage ovarian cancer may include the following:

  • Physical exam and history.
  • CT scan.
  • Ultrasound.
  • Biopsy.

Prognosis

Ovarian epithelial cancer is usually found at an early stage in children and is easier to treat than in adult patients.

Treatment

Treatment of ovarian epithelial cancer may include the following:

  • Surgery.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Combination chemotherapy.

Treatment of ovarian stromal tumors may include the following:

  • Surgery to remove one ovary and one fallopian tube, for early cancer.
  • Surgery followed by chemotherapy for cancer that is advanced.
  • Chemotherapy for cancer that has recurred (come back).

See the following summaries in the A-Z List of Cancers for more information:

For more information on Childhood Ovarian Cancer click here

This link is to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer website in the United States. There may be references to drugs and clinical trials that are not available here in Australia.

For information about clinical trials that are available in Australia click here

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