The body is made up of many types of cells that grow and divide in a controlled way to produce more cells as they are needed to keep the body healthy. When cells become old or damaged, they die and are replaced with new cells.
Sometimes the genetic material (DNA) of a cell becomes damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division; cells do not die when they should and new cells form when the body does not need them. The extra cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumour.
Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissue in the body.
(source National Cancer Institute)
Ovaries are reproductive glands found only in females (women). They are located in the abdomen (belly) above the pelvis; one ovary is on each side of the uterus in the pelvis. The ovaries produce eggs (ova) for reproduction and the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Many women have ovarian cysts at some point in their life. An ovarian cyst is a collection of fluid inside an ovary. Most ovarian cysts occur as a normal part of the process of ovulation (egg release) and are benign. These cysts usually go away within a few months without treatment. An ovarian cyst may be of concern when the woman is not ovulating. Then the doctor may want to do more tests. Sometimes the only way to know for sure that the cyst is benign is to remove it.
Ovarian Cells and Tumours
The ovaries are made up of three main kinds of cells:
Epithelial cells – cover the ovary
Germ cells – found inside the ovary
Stromal cells – form the structural tissue holding the ovary together
Each of these types of cells may develop into a different type of tumour.
Ovarian tumours may be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Ovarian tumours that are malignant (cancerous) can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and can be serious.