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Ovarian cancer is when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way, and eventually form a growth tumour. If not caught early cancer cells gradually grow into the surrounding tissues and may spread to other areas of the body. There are different types of ovarian cancer.

Epithelial ovarian tumors

Most cases of ovarian cancer are epithelial cancers. Primary peritoneal cancer and fallopian tube cancer are similar to epithelial ovarian cancer and are treated in the same way.

Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts

This tissue lining is called the peritoneum. PPC cells are the same as the most common type of ovarian cancer cells. There are 2 ovaries, one on each side of the body. The ovaries produce an egg each month in women of childbearing age. The female reproductive system includes a number of parts. The ovaries hold the eggs which are released each month during child bearing age.

Alternative names

They also produce sex hormones which control periods. The fallopian tubes connect the ovaries to the womb also called the uterus. When an egg is released it travels down the fallopian tube towards the womb. At this time, sperm from the male can pass into the fallopian tube where it may meet the egg and fertilise it. Fertilised eggs pass down the fallopian tube to the womb, which holds and protects the baby during pregnancy.

The lining of the womb is called the endometrium. It thickens during the menstrual cycle ready for pregnancy.

The cervix is the lower part of the womb. It is the opening into the vagina. During a period or menstruation blood passes from the womb through the cervix and then to the vagina. The vagina also opens and expands during sexual intercourse and stretches during childbirth to allow a baby to come out.

On the outside of the body is the vulva.

Ovaries: Facts, Function & Disease

It is made up of two pairs of lips. Between these is the opening of the vagina. Above the vagina is the urethra: a short tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body and above the urethra is the clitoris: a very sensitive area that gives sexual pleasure. For more information about cancers that can start in the female reproductive system, go to cruk. Women are able to have children between puberty when the periods start and the menopause or change of life, when the periods stop. The age when periods start and stop varies a great deal.

In the middle of each menstrual cycle mid way between periods , one of the ovaries releases an egg.

The Ovaries - Structure - Ligaments - Vascular Supply - Function

Then the whole cycle begins again. There are fewer follicles in different stages of development. The different stages of development of the follicles is described here. The histological appearance of these different stages is described here. To find out more about fertilisation and early embryogenesis , click on the links.

Take a look at this eMicroscope of the ovary at low power. Can you identify the tunica albuginea , the germinal epithelium , follicles in different stages of development, the cortex and medulla , and the helicrine arteries.

The connective tissue surrounding the follicles is called the 'stroma'. Two versions of this image without labels may also be viewed with the Zoomify viewer:. High Power. Have a look at this eMicroscope and see if you can identify the various stages of follicular development. This image may also be viewed with the Zoomify viewer.