Ovarian cancer might not begin in the ovaries.
Instead, ovarian cancer may, in fact, begin in the Fallopian tubes, new research revealed this week.
The study, published in Nature Communications, looked at various cancerous and noncancerous tissue samples from nine women, five who had high-grade serous carcinoma — the most common type of ovarian cancer — and four who had their ovaries removed due to being at high risk of developing ovarian cancer, like actress Angelina Jolie did.
The research, which is still in early stages, showed serious tubal intraepithelial carcinoma lesions in the fallopian tubes of all nine women, which the researchers called precursors to ovarian cancer.
“The subsequent formation of a cancer in the ovaries represents a seeding event from a primary tumor in the Fallopian tubes,” the study says.
“If studies in larger groups of women confirm our finding that the fallopian tubes are the site of origin of most ovarian cancer, then this could result in a major change in the way we manage this disease for patients at risk,” senior researcher Victor Velculescu from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Maryland said in a statement.
Using statistical models, the researchers found that after the lesions developed, cancer developed at an average of 6.5 years afterward. But once the cancer reaches the ovaries, it only takes 2 years to quickly progress to a metastatic disease, spreading to different areas of the body.
This aligned with what doctors observe in patients, “newly-diagnosed ovarian cancer patients most often already have widespread disease,” Velculescu said.
There is more work to be done, with a wider sample, so these are just the first steps to discovering more about ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is the number one cause of death from gynecological cancers and its survival rate has not improved in about 30 years, the study says. Less than 30% of women survive beyond 10 years. It is often detected much too late, so potentially uncovering where the disease specifically starts could save many lives.
Some symptoms of ovarian cancer include frequent urination, bloating, and pelvic and abdominal pain.