How does ovarian cancer grow?

Doctors and scientists aren't sure of the exact place in the body that ovarian cancer starts. We used to believe it started in the ovaries, but studies are showing that a lot of ovarian cancers may start at the end of the fallopian tubes. Regardless of where ovarian cancer starts, we treat it all the same and it tends to respond the same.

The big question is: How does it spread? One of the main ways is exfoliation. Think of cancer cells like leaves on a tree as they fall. As these cells fall off the tumor, they spread throughout the abdomen. They implant in different places, and that's why in the advanced stages of the disease, we see multiple spots in the abdomen where the cancer has implanted. It can also spread through the bloodstream and into lymph nodes.

Dr. David A. Fishman, MD
Gynecologic Oncologist

Within the peritoneal cavity, initial ovarian cancer metastasis occurs by detachment of cells from the ovary and then adhesion of cancer cells to the mesothelial-lined peritoneum and serosa of distant organs, followed by extracellular matrix degradation and then invasion into the normal host stroma. This stromal invasion is facilitated by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which are enzymes involved in tumor invasion. Hundreds of other circulating factors also play a role in adhesion and invasion, and, as such, have potential as biomarkers of ovarian cancer.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

About 1 in every 72 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her lifetime. But ovarian cancer is one of the most difficult to detect early. Watch this video as Dr. Oz and researcher Dr. Barbara Goff discuss ovarian cancer.

Continue Learning about Ovarian Cancer

Know the Signs: Ovarian Cancer
Know the Signs: Ovarian Cancer
Since the signs can be difficult to recognize, ovarian cancer is often diagnosed after it's already reached a late stage and has spread to other organ...
Read More
Are there different types of ovarian cancer?
Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA)Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA)
There are more than 30 ovarian cancer types. They are grouped into three categories based on where t...
More Answers
What is the role of IGFBP-3 in ovarian cancer?
David A. Fishman, MDDavid A. Fishman, MD
Insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) is involved in the suppression of mitogen...
More Answers
How Will My Doctor Decide If I Should Have Robotic or Open Surgery?
How Will My Doctor Decide If I Should Have Robotic or Open Surgery?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.