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Borderline ovarian tumors

Lee-may Chen, MD
Jonathan S Berek, MD, MMS
Section Editors
Barbara Goff, MD
Don S Dizon, MD, FACP
Deputy Editors
Sandy J Falk, MD, FACOG
Sadhna R Vora, MD


Borderline tumors of the ovary (also called tumors of low-malignant potential) are a heterogeneous group of lesions defined histologically by atypical epithelial proliferation without stromal invasion [1]. The behavior of these tumors is distinct from low-grade ovarian carcinoma and they are considered a distinct clinical entity.

The epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of borderline ovarian tumors are reviewed here. Ovarian cancer is discussed separately. (See "Overview of epithelial carcinoma of the ovary, fallopian tube, and peritoneum" and "Epithelial carcinoma of the ovary, fallopian tube, and peritoneum: Epidemiology and risk factors" and "Epithelial carcinoma of the ovary, fallopian tube, and peritoneum: Clinical features and diagnosis" and "Cancer of the ovary, fallopian tube, and peritoneum: Staging and initial surgical management" and "First-line chemotherapy for advanced (stage III or IV) epithelial ovarian, fallopian tubal, and peritoneal cancer".)


Borderline ovarian epithelial neoplasms are non-invasive neoplasms that occasionally have intraperitoneal spread [2]. This group of neoplasms exhibit behavior that is intermediate between benign cystadenomas and invasive carcinomas. These have been referred to by different terms, including: borderline, atypical proliferative, and tumors of low-malignant potential. Borderline neoplasm is currently the most widely used designation by pathologists, gynecologists, and oncologists, and has been adopted into the World Health Organization classification [3].

Borderline tumors account for 14 to 15 percent of all primary ovarian neoplasms [4].

Borderline tumors occur in a variety of histologies, as in epithelial ovarian carcinoma [5,6]. The majority of cases are serous or mucinous. Rarely, endometrioid, clear-cell, or transitional cell (Brenner) borderline tumors are found.

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 05, 2017.
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