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Just like Mommy: Yes, Little Girls Can Get Ovarian Cancer Too

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little girls can get ovarian cancer just like their mommies Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

In 2009, eight-year-old Sophie Fry was rushed to a Yorkshire hospital with intense stomach pain. An ultrasound exam revealed the little girl had a type of ovarian cancer classified as a malignant germ cell tumor.

Sophie Fry's cancer diagnosis might shock you. It’s possible you didn’t even know a child could be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Indeed, it’s rare.

Ovarian cancer usually happens to women older than 50. Sophie Fry is believed to be the youngest Briton ever diagnosed with the disease.

Yes, little girls can get ovarian cancer.

Gia Vanni Hendricks of Louisville, Ky. was just 7 years old when, she too, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008. After a round of chemotherapy, the then second grader at Stopher Elementary returned to school cancer free.

The truth is ovarian tumors may occur at any time in infancy, childhood or adolescence. The most common age is between the ages of 10 and 14 years.

“Ovarian tumors are the most common tumors that babies are born with, accounting for one percent of all malignant tumors found in children from birth to the time she’s 17,” said Marc Laufer, MD, chief of gynecology at Boston Children’s hospital.

In the United States, about 1.3 percent of ovarian cancers diagnosed are in people younger than age 20.

Fortunately, most ovarian tumors (about 90 percent) are not cancerous (benign).

Three types of cancerous (malignant) ovarian tumors are most common in the very young:

  • Germ cell tumors are the most common gonadal tumor type in children and teenagers and comprise about 4 percent of all childhood cancers, according to Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

    Germ cell tumors are typically found in the ovaries or testes and can be either malignant or benign.

    Germ cell tumors tend to grow quickly, can become very large, and can cause significant pain in the stomach or back, as well as visible stomach enlargement. In many cases surgery is recommended to remove the tumor and affected organs.

    Experts say continuous follow-up care is essential for a child diagnosed with a germ cell tumor and other cancer treatments may be required.

    In females, germ cell tumors start in egg-making cells inside the ovaries. These tumors are nearly exclusive to young people and typically only one ovary is involved. The most common malignant tumor type is dysgerminoma.

    Young males may develop germ cell tumors before the age of 4, or in their early teenage and young adult years. In children, an abnormal shaped or irregular testicular size is one common symptom. Testicular germ cell tumors in teenagers and young adults are different from those that form in early childhood. They more closely resemble testicular cancer in adults.

  • Epithelial tumors are the second most commonly diagnosed type of pediatric ovarian masses accounting for about 15 percent, according to research published in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery. Epithelial tumors start in the tissue covering the ovaries.
  • Stromal tumors start in cells that produce the sex hormones and hold the ovarian tissues together. Tumors can develop at any age, but are most commonly diagnosed in women in their early 30s and 50s. They are slow growing and may cause pain and discomfort in the early stages. These tumors are known to secrete the female hormone estrogen and the male hormone testosterone and as a result, can cause facial or body hair growth, new onset acne and abnormal uterine bleeding.

Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford has more information on diagnosing and treating childhood ovarian cancer on its

Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer and Scuba enthusiast living in San Diego, CA with her husband and two beach loving dogs. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in newspapers and magazines around the world.

Sources and Patient Information:

Unusual Cancers of Childhood. National Cancer Institute. Accessed 10 September 2012 online at:

Ovarian masses and tumors. Boston Children’s Hospital Center for Young Women’s Health . Patient Information at:

Epithelial ovarian tumors in children. Morowitz M. Huff D., von Allmen D. j Pediatric Surg. 2003 Mar, 38(3):331-5; Accessed through NCBI/Pubmed online 10 September 2012 at:

Childhood Germ Cell Tumors. Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. Accessed online 10 September 2012 at:

State of Germ Cell and Stromal Cell Cancers. Women's Cancer Network. Accessed online 10 Sep 2012 at:

Survivor of rare pediatric ovarian cancer celebrates return to school. The Survivors Club. 10 Jan 2010. Accessed online 10 Sept 2012 at:

Girl, 7, battling cancer connects with class via webcam. Niki King, Courier Journal. 29 Dec 2008. Accessed online 10 Sept 2012 at:

Reviewed September 11, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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