Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors

General Information | Treatment Options | Screening | Prevention
Additional Resources

General Information
  • About
  • Detection
  • Stages

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 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 work).

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

The prognosis 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.

In most cases, ovarian low malignant potential tumor can be treated successfully.

These tumors are usually found early. However, even advanced stage ovarian low malignant potential tumors can be treated successfully. Patients who do not survive usually die from complications of the disease (such as a small bowel obstruction) or the side effects of treatment, but rarely because the tumor has spread.

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 to determine stage. 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 of the ovaries. Stage I is divided into stage IA, stage IB, and stage IC.

  • Stage IA: The tumor is found in a single ovary.
  • Stage IB: The tumor is found in both ovaries.
  • Stage IC: The tumor is found in one or both ovaries and one of the following is true:
    • abnormal cells are found on the outside surface of one or both ovaries; or
    • the capsule (outer covering) of the tumor 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 the 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 has spread to the uterus and/or fallopian tubes and/or other tissue within the pelvis and 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

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

  • Stage IIIA: The tumor is found only in the pelvis, but tumor cells have spread to the surface of the peritoneum (tissue that lines the abdominal wall and covers most of the organs in the abdomen).
  • Stage IIIB: The tumor has spread to the peritoneum but is 2 centimeters or smaller in diameter.
  • Stage IIIC: The tumor has spread to the peritoneum and is larger than 2 centimeters in diameter 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 are found in one or both ovaries and have metastasized (spread) beyond the abdomen to other parts of the body.

The spread of tumor cells to tissues in the liver 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.

Cancer information from the NCI PDQ service