Download Pathophysiology UTERO-OVARIAN MALIGNANCY

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Pathophysiology Endometrial cancer is a heterogeneous disease that is believed to have two biologically different subtypes, implying two different mechanisms for its origin.Low-Risk Subtype

The most common subtype is a well-differentiated carcinoma (grade 1 or 2 endometrioid histology) that behaves in an indolent fashion, causes bleeding symptoms in its early stages, and is curable in most cases. Risk factors for this low-risk subtype are well known and are related to an increase in circulating estrogens: obesity, chronic anovulation and nulliparity, estrogen replacement therapy (unopposed by progesterone), and tamoxifen use.High-Risk Subtype

The high-risk subtype accounts for a minority of endometrial malignancies. These poorly differentiated tumors (grade 3 endometrioid, clear cell, and papillary serous carcinoma) are not associated with increased circulating estrogens. Rather, they appear to occur spontaneously in postmenopausal women without clearly defined risk factors. These tumors metastasize early and account for a disproportionate number of mortalities from endometrial malignancy. Modes of spread include local invasion and lymphatic and vascular embolization. The most common metastatic sites include the cervix, adnexa, and retroperitoneal lymph nodes.

PathophysiologyEach month, normally functioning ovaries develop small cysts called Graafian follicles.1 At mid cycle, a single dominant follicle up to about 2.8 cm in diameter releases a mature oocyte.

The ruptured follicle becomes the corpus luteum, which, at maturity, is a 1.5- to 2-cm structure with a cystic center. In the absence of fertilization of the oocyte, it undergoes progressive fibrosis and shrinkage. If fertilization occurs, the corpus luteum initially enlarges and then gradually decreases in size during pregnancy.

Ovarian cysts arising in the normal process of ovulation are called functional cysts and are always benign. They may be follicular and luteal, sometimes called theca-lutein cysts. These cysts can be stimulated by gonadotropins, including follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). A thecalutein cyst is shown in the sonogram below.

Theca-lutein cysts replacing an ovary in a patient with a molar pregnancy. Despite their size these cysts are benign and usually resolve after treatment of the underlying disease.

Multiple functional cysts can occur as a result of excessive gonadotropin stimulation or sensitivity. In gestational trophoblastic neoplasia (hydatidiform mole and choriocarcinoma) and rarely in multiple and diabetic pregnancy, hCG causes a condition called hyperreactio luteinalis. In patients being treated for infertility, ovulation induction with gonadotropins (FSH and luteinizing hormone [LH]), and rarely clomiphene citrate, may lead to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, especially if accompanied by hCG administration. Neoplastic cysts arise by inappropriate overgrowth of cells within the ovary and may be malignant or benign. Malignant neoplasms may arise from all ovarian cell types and tissues. By far, the most frequent are those arising from the surface epithelium (mesothelium), and most of these are partially cystic lesions. The benign counterparts of these cancers are serous and mucinous cystadenomas. Other malignant ovarian tumors may contain cystic areas, and these include granulosa cell tumors from sex cord stromal cells and germ cell tumors from primordial germ cells. A clear cell carcinoma is shown in the image below.

Cross-section of a clear cell carcinoma of the ovary. Note the cystic spaces intermingled with solid areas.

Teratomas are a form of germ cell tumor2 containing elements from all 3 embryonic germ layers, ie, ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm. A mature cystic teratoma is shown in the image below.

A dermoid cyst (mature cystic teratoma) after opening the abdomen. Note the yellowish color of the contents seen through the wall.

Endometriomas are cysts filled with blood arising from the ectopic endometrium. In polycystic ovary syndrome, the ovary often contains multiple cystic follicles 2-5 mm in diameter as viewed on sonograms. The cysts themselves are never the main problem, and discussion of this disease is beyond the scope of this article.

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Patients may experience discomfort with intercourse, particularly deep penetration. Having bowel movements may be difficult, or pressure may develop, leading to a desire to defecate. Micturition may occur frequently and is due to pressure on the bladder. Irregularity of the menstrual cycle and abnormal vaginal bleeding may occur. Young children may present with precocious puberty and early onset of menarche.

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Patients may experience abdominal fullness and bloating. Patients may experience indigestion, heartburn, or early satiety. Endometriomas are associated with endometriosis, which causes a classic triad of painful and heavy periods and dyspareunia.


Polycystic ovaries may be part of the polycystic ovary syndrome, which includes hirsutism, infertility, oligomenorrhea, obesity, and acne.

PhysicalyAdvanced malignant disease may be associated with cachexia and weight loss, lymphadenopathy in the neck, shortness of breath, and signs of pleural effusion.


A large cyst may be palpable on abdominal examination. Gross ascites may interfere with palpation of an intra-abdominal mass.


Although normal ovaries may be palpable during the pelvic examination in thin premenopausal patients, a palpable ovary should be considered abnormal in a postmenopausal woman. If a patient is obese, palpating cysts of any size may prove difficult.


Sometimes, discerning the cystic nature of an ovarian cyst may be possible, and it may be tender to palpation. The cervix and uterus may be pushed to one side.


Other masses may be palpable, including fibroids and nodules in the uterosacral ligament consistent with malignancy or endometriosis.

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DietNormal healthy diet

Laboratory Studiesy yNo laboratory tests are diagnostic for ovarian cysts. Cancer antigen 125 (CA125) is a protein expressed on the cell membrane of normal ovarian tissue and ovarian carcinomas.


A serum level of less than 35 U/mL is considered normal. In some laboratories, the upper limit of normal may be lower than this.


While CA125 values are elevated in 85% of patients with epithelial ovarian carcinomas, overall, the value is elevated in only 50% of patients with stage I cancers confined to the ovary.9 CA125 levels are also elevated in patients with some benign conditions or other malignancies and in 6% of healthy patients.


The finding of an elevated CA125 level is most useful when combined with an ultrasonographic investigation while assessing a postmenopausal woman with an ovarian cyst.


Extensive research is ongoing to find an accurate blood test for the detection of early ovarian cancer or precancer. Approaches that have been reported and received some publicity include the use of proteomic patterns in serum10 and more recently estimation of a panel of blood markers (leptin, prolactin, osteopontin, insulinlike growth factor, macrophage inhibitory factor, and CA125) included in an immunoassay marketed with the name Ovasure.11,12,13 However, no test with widely accepted proven accuracy has yet been defined.


Other tumor marker values may be elevated in patients with neoplastic ovarian cysts. These markers include serum inhibin in granulosa cell tumors, alpha-fetoprotein in endodermal sinus tumors, lactic dehydrogenase in dysgerminomas, and alpha-fetoprotein and beta-hCG in embryonal carcinomas.

Imaging StudiesyUltrasonography


This is the primary imaging tool for a patient considered to have an ovarian cyst.8,14,15 Findings can help define morphologic characteristics of ovarian cysts.


Simple cysts are unilocular and have a uniformly thin wall surrounding a single cavity that contains no internal echoes. These cysts are unlikely to be cancerous. Most commonly, they are functional follicular or luteal cysts or, less commonly, serous cystadenomas or inclusion cysts.


Complex cysts may have more than one compartment (multilocular), thickening of the wall, projections (papulations) sticking into the lumen or on the surface, or abnormalities within the cyst contents. Malignant cysts usually fall within this category, as do many benign neoplastic cysts.


Hemorrhagic cysts, endometriomas, and dermoids tend to have characteristic features on sonograms that may help to differentiate them from malignant complex cysts. A dermoid cyst is shown in the sonogram below.

Endovaginal sonogram shows a striking echogenic mass lateral to the uterus, with posterior acoustic shadowing giving a "tip-of-the-iceberg" appearance. This is pathognomonic for dermoid cyst. Occasionally, this appearance may be mistaken for gas-filled bowel. Courtesy of Patrick O'Kane, MD.oSonograms may not be helpful for differentiating hydrosalpinx, paraovarian, and tubal cysts from ovarian cysts.


Endovaginal ultrasonography can help in a detailed morphologic examination of pelvic structures. This requires a handheld probe to be inserted into the vagina. It is relatively noninvasive and is well tolerated in reproductive-aged women and postreproductive-aged women who are still engaging in intercourse. It does not require a full bladder.


Transabdominal ultrasonography is better than endovaginal ultrasonography for evaluating large mas