Mucinous Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian mucinous cancer is a sub-group of epithelial cancer. It represents 2-3% of all ovarian cancers.

What is a mucinous cancer? 

This simply means that the ovarian cancers are large cells filled with a fluid, meaning that most of the tumour is made up of cells coated in mucous. 

There are three sub-types of mucinous ovarian cancer, they are subdivided according to their malignant potential and clinical behaviour: 

  • Ovarian mucinous cystadenoma 
  • Ovarian borderline mucinous tumour 
  • Ovarian mucinous cystadenocarcinoma 

Diagnosing mucinous ovarian cancer

Tumour marker blood tests are an important part of the process in diagnosing ovarian cancers. These include elevated levels of CA125, CEA and CA19-9. CEA (Carcinoembryonic antigen) is the most important marker in diagnosing mucinous ovarian cancer. It is more likely to be elevated in this type of cancer (in 88% of people diagnosed) than in other non-mucinous cancers (19% of people diagnosed). 

Who does this type of cancer affect?

Mucinous ovarian cancer tends to occur in women and people with ovaries who are 40-50 years of age, although it can happen outside of this age range. 

What is the prognosis for mucinous ovarian cancers? 

Up to 80% of mucinous cancers present at an early stage, and therefore have an excellent prognosis. For early stage mucinous cancer there is more than a 90% 5-year survival rate, but for the women and people diagnosed whose cancer has already spread (metastatic), the average survival ranges from between 12 and 30 months. 

How is it treated? 

The gold standard treatment for mucinous cancer is surgery. This includes a hysterectomy (removing the womb and cervix), removal of both ovaries, nearby lymph nodes, and removing the omentum (a fatty layer surrounding your abdominal organs). Removing the appendix (an appendectomy) has been recommended for all mucinous ovarian tumours. Some people diagnosed who are younger, pre-menopausal, they may wish to discuss fertility sparing surgery, which you can do with your oncology team. Whether it is possible for you will depend on the stage of disease. 

Platinum based chemotherapy, such as Carboplatin, is used after surgery in women and people with advanced stage disease. However, mucinous ovarian cancer has been shown to be less responsive to platinum-based chemotherapy compared to other epithelial ovarian cancer sub-types. Due to similarities to mucinous colorectal cancer, gastro-intestinal chemotherapies have been suggested as an alternative treatment option to standard ovarian cancer treatments. 

If you have any questions, or would like any more information, you can contact our Ask Eve Information Nurse, Hilary, either by email nurse@eveappeal.org.uk or by phone 0808 802 0019, for free and confidential advice.