Types of ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is classified into different types, in fact there are many different ovarian cancers, but most are epithelial ovarian cancer which affects 90 per cent of women diagnosed. The remaining 10 per cent are rare types.

Epithelial ovarian cancer

This is the most common type of ovarian cancer which is diagnosed in around 6,800 every year. Within this category are six sub types:


This form accounts for around 70 per cent of cases.


This accounts for a further 10 per cent.


These tumours make up five per cent and are more likely to be associated with disease in the uterus (womb) and sometimes an ovary is found to be affected when a woman is diagnosed with endometrial cancer.

Clear cell

These tumours represent around three to four per cent of ovarian cancers and can behave more aggressively.

Ovacome produces a fact sheet that covers clear cell ovarian cancer in more detail; click here to download (pdf).

Borderline tumours

Ten to 15 per cent of ovarian cancers are borderline tumours, also known as tumours of low malignant potential. They tend to remain confined to the ovary for long periods without spreading and usually occur in premenopausal women. Spread outside the ovary can arise but there is currently no evidence that the course of this disease is altered by chemotherapy.

Ovacome produces a fact sheet that covers borderline ovarian cancer in more detail; click here to download (pdf).

Treatment of the different types of epithelial cancers is essentially the same. The recommended treatment is platinum based chemotherapy usually in conjunction with Taxol.

Germ cell tumours

Germ cell tumours of the ovary make up three per cent of malignant ovarian tumours, so they are rare.  They tend to occur in very young women, those aged from 10 to 30, but usually have a good prognosis.  It is important for this form of ovarian cancer to be treated in a specialist unit with experience of this tumour type.

Germ cell tumours are categorised according to their main cell type.  The most common form is the dysgerminoma which accounts for 30 to 40 per cent of cases.

The forms include:

  • Dysgerminoma
  • Endodermal sinus tumours
  • Teratoma, immature, mature or mixed
  • Embryonal carcinoma
  • Choriocarcinoma
  • Sex-cord stromal tumours
  • Granulosa cell tumours
  • Sertoli-Leydig tumours
  • Sarcomas

Ovacome produces a fact sheet that covers in more detail the rarer forms of ovarian cancer; please click here to download (pdf).

Last review April 2018
Date of next review April 2020

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