Ovarian stromal tumors develop in the ovaries’ structural connective tissue cells that produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Stromal cells are among the three most common cell types to be affected by ovarian cancer; however, stromal tumors represent only about 1% of all ovarian cancers. This type of cancer is more prevalent in women over the age of 50, but roughly 5% of ovarian stromal tumors form in young girls.
Hormone-related symptoms of ovarian stromal tumors
Because stromal tumors develop in the ovarian cells that produce female hormones, the tumors often end up producing estrogen, which can result in abnormal vaginal bleeding. This estrogen production can cause period-like bleeding to start up again after menopause in older women, or it can lead to early menstruation and breast development prior to puberty in younger girls.
Sometimes, ovarian stromal tumors can actually produce male hormones, which could cause regular menstruation to stop, or superfluous facial and body hair to grow or enlarge the clitoris.
Types of ovarian stromal tumors
Stromal tumors may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). They are broken down into many subtypes, which are determined by a number of the tumors’ features, such as how their cells look under a microscope. Thecomas and fibromas are examples of benign stromal tumors. Some of the most common types of malignant ovarian stromal tumors include granulosa cell tumors, granulosa-theca tumors and Sertoli-Leydig tumors
Treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center
Moffitt’s Gynecologic Oncology Program is home to a multispecialty team of surgeons, medical oncologists, reproductive endocrinologists and many other professionals, who specialize in treating all types of ovarian cancer, including stromal tumors. This team collaborates to create individualized treatment plans, tailored to each of our patient’s unique needs and preferences.
Treatment varies by patient, as many factors are taken into account when developing a treatment plan. But generally speaking, ovarian stromal tumors are frequently discovered early and can be surgically treated. Secondary treatments often include chemotherapy or hormone therapy. It is important to have a proper consultation prior to undergoing surgery. The earlier a cancer diagnosis is made, the better the outcome will be.
Medically reviewed by Mian Shahzad, MD, PhD, gynecologic oncologist.