Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors Symptoms, Tests, Prognosis, and Stages (PDQ®)–Patient Version

General Information About Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumors

Key Points

  • Ovarian low malignant potential tumor is a disease in which abnormal cells form in the tissue covering the ovary.
  • Signs and symptoms of ovarian low malignant potential tumor include pain or swelling in the abdomen.
  • Tests that examine the ovaries are used to detect (find), diagnose, and stage ovarian low malignant potential tumor.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

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.

EnlargeAnatomy 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.

Signs and symptoms of ovarian low malignant potential tumor include pain or swelling in the abdomen.

Ovarian low malignant potential tumor may not cause early signs or symptoms. If you do have signs or symptoms, they may include the following:

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

Tests that examine the ovaries are used to detect (find), diagnose, and stage ovarian low malignant potential tumor.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history : An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Pelvic exam : An exam of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and rectum. A speculum is inserted into the vagina and the doctor or nurse looks at the vagina and cervix for signs of disease. A Pap test of the cervix is usually done. The doctor or nurse also inserts one or two lubricated, gloved fingers of one hand into the vagina and places the other hand over the lower abdomen to feel the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. The doctor or nurse also inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for lumps or abnormal areas.
    EnlargePelvic exam; drawing shows a side view of the female reproductive anatomy during a pelvic exam. The uterus, left fallopian tube, left ovary, cervix, vagina, bladder, and rectum are shown. Two gloved fingers of one hand of the doctor or nurse are shown inserted into the vagina, while the other hand is shown pressing on the lower abdomen. The inset shows a woman covered by a drape on an exam table with her legs apart and her feet in stirrups.
    Pelvic exam. A doctor or nurse inserts one or two lubricated, gloved fingers of one hand into the vagina and presses on the lower abdomen with the other hand. This is done to feel the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. The vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, and rectum are also checked.
  • Ultrasound exam: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. The picture can be printed to be looked at later.
    EnlargeAbdominal ultrasound; drawing shows a woman on an exam table during an abdominal ultrasound procedure. A diagnostic sonographer (a person trained to perform ultrasound procedures) is shown passing a transducer (a device that makes sound waves that bounce off tissues inside the body) over the surface of the patient’s abdomen. A computer screen shows a sonogram (computer picture).
    Abdominal ultrasound. An ultrasound transducer connected to a computer is passed over the surface of the abdomen. The ultrasound transducer bounces sound waves off internal organs and tissues to make echoes that form a sonogram (computer picture).
    Other patients may have a transvaginal ultrasound.
    EnlargeTransvaginal ultrasound; drawing shows a side view of the female reproductive anatomy during a transvaginal ultrasound procedure. An ultrasound probe (a device that makes sound waves that bounce off tissues inside the body) is shown inserted into the vagina. The bladder, uterus, right fallopian tube, and right ovary are also shown. The inset shows the diagnostic sonographer (a person trained to perform ultrasound procedures) examining a woman on a table, and a computer screen shows an image of the patient’s internal tissues.
    Transvaginal ultrasound. An ultrasound probe connected to a computer is inserted into the vagina and is gently moved to show different organs. The probe bounces sound waves off internal organs and tissues to make echoes that form a sonogram (computer picture).
  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • CA 125 assay : A test that measures the level of CA 125 in the blood. CA 125 is a substance released by cells into the bloodstream. An increased CA 125 level is sometimes a sign of cancer or other condition.
  • Chest x-ray : An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
  • Biopsy : The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. The tissue is usually removed during surgery to remove the tumor.

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

Key Points

  • 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 following stages are used for ovarian low malignant potential tumor:
    • Stage I
    • Stage II
    • Stage III
    • Stage IV

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 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 III

Enlarge Tumor sizes; drawing shows different sizes of a tumor compared to the size of a pea (1 cm), peanut (2 cm), grape (3 cm), walnut (4 cm), lime (5 cm), egg (6 cm), peach (7 cm), and grapefruit (10 cm).
Tumor sizes. The size of a tumor may be compared to the size of a pea (1 cm), peanut (2 cm), grape (3 cm), walnut (4 cm), lime (5 cm), egg (6 cm), peach (7 cm), or grapefruit (10 cm).

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.

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.

  • Updated: May 7, 2018

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