Epithelial Ovarian Tumors

A doctor explains epithelial ovarian tumors to a patient

The ovarian cells that are most commonly affected by cancer are the epithelial cells, which are in the outer surface tissue of the ovaries. In fact, epithelial ovarian tumors account for 85% to 90% of all ovarian cancers.

Epithelial ovarian tumors are classified as one of the following:

  • Benign – These are noncancerous tumors that do not spread or cause serious health issues.
  • Borderline – Under a microscope, these tumors don’t clearly appear cancerous; they are slow- growing and considered less life-threatening than other ovarian cancers.
  • Malignant – “Malignant” means the tumor is cancerous; these tumors are called “carcinomas.”

Types of malignant epithelial ovarian tumors

Epithelial ovarian carcinomas can be broken down into many subtypes based on their cells’ features. The most common types include serous carcinomas, clear cell carcinomas, mucinous carcinomas and endometrioid carcinomas.


In addition to the subtypes mentioned above, malignant epithelial ovarian tumors are also given a grade based on how closely their cells resemble those of healthy tissue, with grade 1 looking most like normal tissue and grade 3 looking less like normal tissue.


These tumors are also given a type, which is determined by their growth, among other factors. Type 1 tumors, for instance, are slower growing and cause fewer symptoms than Type 2 tumors, which are more likely to spread.

Treatment for epithelial ovarian tumors

There are many factors that doctors take into consideration when developing a patient’s treatment plan, but in many cases, surgery would be a primary treatment option with some form of chemotherapy following. The surgical expertise and the integration of this in the treatment plan are key factors that can determine a patient’s survival from ovarian cancer. In some infrequent situations, chemotherapy might be the only primary treatment. Radiation therapy is not used as often with ovarian cancer as compared to other cancers, but it is occasionally recommended.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, our Gynecologic Oncology Program features a multispecialty team including medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, fertility specialists and other professionals, all of whom specialize in treating ovarian cancer and work together to develop individualized treatment plans for our patients.

Medically reviewed by Robert Wenham, MD, Chair, Gynecologic Oncology Program

To learn more about epithelial ovarian tumors and treatment options, call us with or without a referral at 1-888-663-3488, or complete our new patient registration form online.