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Home > Cancers We Treat > Gynecologic Cancer > Ovarian Cancer (Germ Cell)

Ovarian Cancer (Germ Cell)


Ovarian germ cell tumor is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the germ (egg) cells of the ovary.

Germ cell tumors begin in the reproductive cells (egg or sperm) of the body. Ovarian germ cell tumors usually occur in teenage girls or young women and most often affect just one ovary.

The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female reproductive system. They are in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus (the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a fetus grows). Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries make eggs and female hormones.

A graphic depicting the location of the ovaries in a cut-away of a female torso, along with a cancerous mass in the left ovary of the abdomen contrasted with a healthy right ovary.
Cancerous Mass in the Left Ovary
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Factors that increase your chance for ovarian cancer include:

  • Family history of ovarian cancer, especially in mother, sister or daughter
  • Age: 50 or older
  • Menstrual history—first period before age 12, no childbirth or first childbirth after age 30, and late menopause
  • Personal history of breast cancer or endometrial cancer
  • Certain gene mutations, including BRCA1, BRCA2


Ovarian germ cell tumors can be hard to diagnose (find) early. Often there are no symptoms in the early stages, but tumors may be found during regular gynecologic exams (checkups). Check with your doctor if you have either of the following:

  • Swollen abdomen without weight gain in other parts of the body.
  • Bleeding from the vagina after menopause (when you are no longer having menstrual periods).


Tests may include:

  • Physical exam and history
  • Pelvic Exam, your doctor will use her gloved finger to check your:
    • Uterus
    • Vagina
    • Ovaries
    • Fallopian tubes
    • Bladder
    • Rectum
  • Diagnostic Tests
    • Laparotomy
    • CT scan
    • Serum tumor marker test


Four types of standard treatment are used:
  • Surgery
  • Observation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
  • High-dose chemotherapy with bone marrow transplant


There are no guidelines for preventing ovarian cancer because the cause is unknown. Symptoms also are not present in the early stages. All women should have regular physical exams including vaginal exams and palpation of the ovaries.


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Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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The Gail Model is a scientifically published, nationally accepted standard for evaluating your relative risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, based on your family history.