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Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI]

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http://cancer.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors Treatment

General Information About Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors

Ovarian low malignant potential tumor is a disease in which abnormal cells form in the tissue covering the ovary.

Ovarian low malignant potential tumors have abnormal cells that may become cancer, but usually do not. This disease usually remains in the ovary. When disease is found in one ovary, the other ovary should also be checked carefully for signs of disease.

The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female reproductive system. They are 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 make eggs and female hormones.
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.

Possible signs of ovarian low malignant potential tumor include pain or swelling in the abdomen.

Early ovarian low malignant potential tumor may not cause any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include the following:

  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen.
  • Pain in the pelvis.
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as gas, bloating, or constipation.

These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. If the symptoms get worse or do not go away on their own, check with your doctor.

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of the disease (whether it affects part of the ovary, involves the whole ovary, or has spread to other places in the body).
  • What type of cells make up the tumor.
  • The size of the tumor.
  • The patient's general health.

Patients with ovarian low malignant potential tumors have a good prognosis, especially when the tumor is found early.

Stages of Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors

After ovarian low malignant potential tumor has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if abnormal cells have spread within the ovary or to other parts of the body.

The process used to find out whether abnormal cells have spread within the ovary or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. Certain tests or procedures are used for staging. Staging laparotomy (a surgical incision made in the wall of the abdomen to remove ovarian tissue) may be used. Most patients are diagnosed with stage I disease.

The following stages are used for ovarian low malignant potential tumor:

Stage I

In stage I, the tumor is found in one or both ovaries. Stage I is divided into stage IA, stage IB, and stage IC.

  • Stage IA: The tumor is found inside a single ovary.
  • Stage IB: The tumor is found inside both ovaries.
  • Stage IC: The tumor is found inside one or both ovaries and one of the following is true:
    • tumor cells are found on the outside surface of one or both ovaries; or
    • the capsule (outer covering) of the ovary has ruptured (broken open); or
    • tumor cells are found in the fluid of the peritoneal cavity (the body cavity that contains most of the organs in the abdomen) or in washings of the peritoneum (tissue lining the peritoneal cavity).

Stage II

In stage II, the tumor is found in one or both ovaries and has spread into other areas of the pelvis. Stage II is divided into stage IIA, stage IIB, and stage IIC.

  • Stage IIA: The tumor has spread to the uterus and/or fallopian tubes (the long slender tubes through which eggs pass from the ovaries to the uterus).
  • Stage IIB: The tumor has spread to other tissue within the pelvis.
  • Stage IIC: The tumor is found inside one or both ovaries and has spread to the uterus and/or fallopian tubes, or to other tissue within the pelvis. Also, one of the following is true:
    • tumor cells are found on the outside surface of one or both ovaries; or
    • the capsule (outer covering) of the ovary has ruptured (broken open); or
    • tumor cells are found in the fluid of the peritoneal cavity (the body cavity that contains most of the organs in the abdomen) or in washings of the peritoneum (tissue lining the peritoneal cavity).

Stage III

Tumor size compared to everyday objects; shows various measurements of a tumor compared to a pea, peanut, walnut, and lime
Pea, peanut, walnut, and lime show tumor sizes.

In stage III, the tumor is found in one or both ovaries and has spread outside the pelvis to other parts of the abdomen and/or nearby lymph nodes. Stage III is divided into stage IIIA, stage IIIB, and stage IIIC.

  • Stage IIIA: The tumor is found in the pelvis only, but tumor cells that can be seen only with a microscope have spread to the surface of the peritoneum (tissue that lines the abdominal wall and covers most of the organs in the abdomen), the small intestines, or the tissue that connects the small intestines to the wall of the abdomen.
  • Stage IIIB: The tumor has spread to the peritoneum and the tumor in the peritoneum is 2 centimeters or smaller.
  • Stage IIIC: The tumor has spread to the peritoneum and the tumor in the peritoneum is larger than 2 centimeters and/or has spread to lymph nodes in the abdomen.

The spread of tumor cells to the surface of the liver is also considered stage III disease.

Stage IV

In stage IV, tumor cells have spread beyond the abdomen to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or tissue inside the liver.

Tumor cells in the fluid around the lungs is also considered stage IV disease.

Ovarian low malignant potential tumors almost never reach stage IV.

Recurrent Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors

Ovarian low malignant potential tumors may recur (come back) after they have been treated. The tumors may come back in the other ovary or in other parts of the body.

Treatment Option Overview

There are different types of treatment for patients with ovarian low malignant potential tumor.

Different types of treatment are available for patients with ovarian low malignant potential tumor. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer, tumors, and related conditions. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Two types of standard treatment are used:

Surgery

The type of surgery (removing the tumor in an operation) depends on the size and spread of the tumor and the woman's plans for having children. Surgery may include the following:

  • Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: Surgery to remove one ovary and one fallopian tube.
  • Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: Surgery to remove both ovaries and both fallopian tubes.
  • Total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus, cervix, and both ovaries and fallopian tubes. If the uterus and cervix are taken out through the vagina, the operation is called a vaginal hysterectomy. If the uterus and cervix are taken out through a large incision (cut) in the abdomen, the operation is called a total abdominal hysterectomy. If the uterus and cervix are taken out through a small incision (cut) in the abdomen using a laparoscope, the operation is called a total laparoscopic hysterectomy.
    Hysterectomy; drawing shows the female reproductive anatomy, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, fallopian tubes, and cervix. Dotted lines show which organs and tissues are removed in a total hysterectomy, a total hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy, and a radical hysterectomy. An inset shows the location of two possible incisions on the abdomen: a low transverse incision is just above the pubic area and a vertical incision is between the navel and the pubic area.
    Hysterectomy. The uterus is surgically removed with or without other organs or tissues. In a total hysterectomy, the uterus and cervix are removed. In a total hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy, (a) the uterus plus one (unilateral) ovary and fallopian tube are removed; or (b) the uterus plus both (bilateral) ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed. In a radical hysterectomy, the uterus, cervix, both ovaries, both fallopian tubes, and nearby tissue are removed. These procedures are done using a low transverse incision or a vertical incision.
  • Partial oophorectomy: Surgery to remove part of one ovary or part of both ovaries.
  • Omentectomy: Surgery to remove the omentum (a piece of the tissue lining the abdominal wall).

Even if the doctor removes all disease that can be seen at the time of the operation, the patient may be given chemotherapy after surgery to kill any tumor cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the tumor will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.

For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the medical research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.

Many of today's standard treatments for disease are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.

Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way diseases will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.

Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their treatment.

Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose disease has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop a disease from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of treatment.

Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. See the Treatment Options section that follows for links to current treatment clinical trials. These have been retrieved from NCI's clinical trials database.

Follow-up tests may be needed.

Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the disease may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests. This is sometimes called re-staging.

Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your condition has changed or if the disease has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.

Treatment Options for Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors

A link to a list of current clinical trials is included for each treatment section. For some stages, there may not be any trials listed. Check with your doctor for clinical trials that are not listed here but may be right for you.

Early Stage Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors (Stage I and II)

Surgery is the standard treatment for early stage ovarian low malignant potential tumor. The type of surgery usually depends on whether a woman plans to have children.

For women who plan to have children, surgery is either:

  • unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy; or
  • partial oophorectomy.

To prevent recurrence of disease, most doctors recommend surgery to remove the remaining ovarian tissue when a woman no longer plans to have children.

For women who do not plan to have children, treatment may be hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage I borderline ovarian surface epithelial-stromal tumor and stage II borderline ovarian surface epithelial-stromal tumor. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Late Stage Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors (Stage III and IV)

Treatment for late stage ovarian low malignant potential tumor may be hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, and omentectomy. A lymph node dissection may also be done.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage III borderline ovarian surface epithelial-stromal tumor and stage IV borderline ovarian surface epithelial-stromal tumor. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Recurrent Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors

Treatment for recurrent ovarian low malignant potential tumor may include the following:

  • Surgery.
  • Surgery followed by chemotherapy.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with recurrent borderline ovarian surface epithelial-stromal tumor. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

To Learn More About Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors

For general cancer information and other resources from the National Cancer Institute, see the following:

  • What You Need to Know About™ Cancer
  • Understanding Cancer Series: Cancer
  • Cancer Staging
  • Chemotherapy and You: Support for People With Cancer
  • Radiation Therapy and You: Support for People With Cancer
  • Coping with Cancer: Supportive and Palliative Care
  • Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Cancer
  • Cancer Library
  • Information For Survivors/Caregivers/Advocates

Changes to This Summary (08 / 17 / 2012)

The PDQ cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.

Editorial changes were made to this summary.

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About PDQ

PDQ is a comprehensive cancer database available on NCI's Web site.

PDQ is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. Most of the information contained in PDQ is available online at NCI's Web site. PDQ is provided as a service of the NCI. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health, the federal government's focal point for biomedical research.

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The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries are available in two versions. The health professional versions provide detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions provide current and accurate cancer information.

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PDQ also contains information on clinical trials.

A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new treatment and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard." Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

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Last Revised: 2012-08-17


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