What is a stromal ovarian tumor?

A stromal ovarian tumor is one that develops on the tissues that hold an ovary together. These types of tumors are rare, and doctors often find them in stage one, making them very treatable.

Ovarian Cancer Epithelial Ovarian Carcinoma

Causes of a stromal ovarian tumor

As with many other types of cancer, it is hard to pinpoint a cause for a stromal ovarian tumor. Doctors can identify certain factors that lead to other types of ovarian cancer. They know less about the causes of this type of tumor. Family history and certain genetic factors both increase a woman's risk for this type of tumor.

Risk factors of a stromal ovarian tumor

Doctors have identified risk factors for several types of ovarian cancer. Those same risk factors do not always apply to stromal ovarian tumors though. Because they are so rare, it is hard to determine why some women develop these tumors.

Factors that increase a woman's risk for ovarian cancer in general include:

  • Age — the risk of developing this cancer increases with age, it is most common in women over the age of 63.
  • Weight — women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk.
  • Pregnancy — the risk of ovarian cancer is lower in women who have been pregnant and carried a baby to term.
  • Birth control pills — women who have taken birth control pills have a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than those who have not.
  • Androgens — increased levels of male hormones in a woman's body increase her risk.

Symptoms of a stromal ovarian tumor

Many symptoms of a stromal ovarian tumor are the same as with common types of ovarian cancer.

The main symptoms include bloating, pain in the abdomen, feeling full quickly after eating and needing to use the bathroom more often than usual.

Symptoms more specific to these tumors include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Breast sensitivity
  • Unusual uterine bleeding
  • Increased discharge from the vagina
  • Male pattern traits caused by increased male hormones

Diagnosis of a stromal ovarian tumor

There are not blood tests or screening options to detect any type of ovarian cancer early.

If you show symptoms of a stromal ovarian tumor, your doctor will perform an ultrasound. A wand inserted into the vagina gives the doctor a clear view of your organs.

The doctor can see if tumors are present on your ovaries. If the doctor detects any unusual growths, they will suggest surgery and biopsy to make a diagnosis.

Treatments for a stromal ovarian tumor

Fortunately, doctors often find these tumors when they are in stage one. The treatment at this stage is surgery to remove the ovary and the tumor. Patients do not usually need more treatment after that.

Stromal ovarian tumors beyond stage one are still treatable with surgery. Depending on how far the tumor has spread, the surgery may remove more of the affected tissue or require removal of the uterus and both ovaries.

You may need a combination of other treatments, too. Chemotherapy helps to destroy cancer cells. Hormone therapy is an option for patients who cannot handle chemotherapy. In rare cases, doctors use radiation to treat these tumors.

Recovery from a stromal ovarian tumor

After surgery, you may need to stay in the hospital for up to five to seven days. It is common to experience pain after surgery. Doctors will prescribe pain medication to make recovery more comfortable.

Most women begin to feel better within six weeks of surgery. Recovery time depends on the extent of the surgery and any other treatments or procedures you must have.

Your doctor will later discuss the outcome and let you know if you need more treatment.

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