Ovarian serous tumours

Ovarian serous neoplasms are the commonest subtypes of the epithelial ovarian tumours, being more prevalent than the mucinous ovarian tumours. They are subdivided according to their malignant potential and clinical behaviour into:

Approximately 60% are benign and ~15% of borderline malignancy; These occur most commonly in women of reproductive age. The malignant tumours comprise of 25% of cases and tend to occur in older patients.  

Like all ovarian epithelial neoplasms, they are derived from coelomic mesothelium. In the case of the serous tumours, this differentiates into the tubal epithelium. 

In contrast, the formation of mucinous tumours results from the coelomic mesothelium evolving into cervix epithelium, and the formation of endometrioid tumours – into endometrial epithelium.

Imaging evaluation may be performed preferably with ultrasound or MRI, with CT usually reserved for staging purposes. In general, the cell type (e.g. serous, mucinous) often cannot be determined on the imaging basis of appearances. 

Serous ovarian tumours are typically smaller than mucinous tumours on presentation. They are typically unilocular and homogeneous. They are often bilateral, and this is particularly so for the malignant subtypes. Psammomatous calcification is a feature of serous, but not mucinous subtypes. 

Features that suggest a malignant over a benign cystic neoplasm include: 

  • large cystic mass
  • thick irregular walls and septa
  • papillary projections
  • large soft tissue component
  • ascites
  • evidence of invasive spread or adenopathy

Considerations include:

  • ovarian functional cyst
    • usually smaller
    • thin walls with no septations 
    • tend to change or resolve in the next menstrual cycle
  • paraovarian cyst
    • ovaries can be individualised apart from the cyst 
  • ovarian mucinous tumours
    • tend to be multiseptated 
    • often larger than serous tumours
    • monolateral rather than bilateral
    • cystic loculi with variable signal intensities on MRI giving the appearances of "stained glass"
Ultrasound - gynaecology
Share article

Article information

rID: 13395
System: Gynaecology
Section: Pathology
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Serous tumours of the ovary
  • Serous tumors of the ovary
  • Ovarian serous tumors
  • Ovarian serous tumor
  • Ovarian serous tumour

Support Radiopaedia and see fewer ads

Cases and figures

  • Drag
    Serous Cystadenom...
    Case 1: ovarian serous cystadenoma
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Serous cystadenoc...
    Case 2: ovarian serous cystadenocarcinoma
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    There is a multil...
    Case 3: ovarian serous cystadenofibroma - US
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Case 3: ovarian serous cystadenofibroma - MRI
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    Bilateral complex...
    Case 4: bilateral serous cystadenocarcinoma
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.
    Loadinganimation

    Alert accept

    Error Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

    Alert accept Thank you for updating your details.