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Borderline Ovarian Tumors: Fifteen Years’ Experience at a Scottish Tertiary Cancer Center
  1. James May, MRCOG*,
  2. Karolina Skorupskaite, PhD, MRCOG*,
  3. Mario Congiu, PhD*,
  4. Nidal Ghaoui, MD*,
  5. Graeme A. Walker, MRCOG,
  6. Scott Fegan, PhD, MRCOG*,
  7. Cameron W. Martin, MD, MRCOG* and
  8. Rachel Louise O’Donnell, PhD*,,§
  1. *Department of Gynaecology Oncology, Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health, Royal Infirmary Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland;
  2. Queensland Centre for Gynaecological Cancer, Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital, Herston, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia;
  3. Northern Gynaecological Oncology Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Sheriff Hill, Gateshead, England;
  4. §Northern Institute for Cancer Research, Framlington Place, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Rachel Louise O’Donnell, MRCOG, PhD, Northern Gynaecological Oncology Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Sheriff Hill, Gateshead, England NE9 6SX. E-mail: Rachel.O%E2%80%99Donnell{at}


Objectives Since the recognition of borderline ovarian tumors (BOTs) in the 1970s, the management of this subset of epithelial ovarian tumors has presented a challenge to clinicians. The majority present at an early stage, but their diagnosis is often only made following surgery, hence the heterogeneity of surgical management. Borderline ovarian tumors are morphologically diverse, and their behavior is subsequently also heterogeneous. We aimed to assess recurrence rates and the rate of malignant transformation in patients diagnosed with BOT. Secondary objectives included a review of current management and assessment of tumor markers, stage, cyst dimensions, and the presence of micropapillary features as prognostic indicators of recurrence.

Methods This retrospective cohort study included all patients treated with BOT between 2000 and 2015 in the southeast region of Scotland. Clinical, surgicopathological, and follow-up data were collated. Data were analyzed with reference to recurrence and malignant transformation.

Results Two hundred seventy-five patients underwent treatment for BOT in the study period. Surgical management was highly variable. A diagnosis of recurrent/persistent BOT or ovarian malignancy following initial treatment of BOT was rare, with only 12 (4%) of 275 cases. There were 7 cases (3%) of ovarian malignancy. Advanced International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics stage was the most prominent prognostic factor. Elevated preoperative serum CA-125 and the presence of micropapillary features correlated with advanced stage at presentation. With a lack of clear guidance, follow-up was highly variable with a median of 43 months (0–136 months).

Conclusions To our knowledge, this study is the largest BOT cohort in the United Kingdom. Recurrent disease is rare in optimally staged, completely resected, early-stage BOT, without high-risk features. Caution is needed in women electing not to undergo completion staging after diagnosis and in those opting for a fertility-preserving approach. Thorough informed consent and clear plans for surveillance and follow-up are needed with consideration of delayed completion surgery as appropriate.

  • Borderline ovarian tumors
  • Malignant transformation
  • Ovarian tumors of low malignant potential
  • Prognosis
  • Recurrence/relapse

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  • The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

  • Highlights: Management of borderline ovarian tumors is highly heterogeneous owing to variable patient, clinician, and histological factors. Extent of staging at primary surgery is variable, rates of secondary completion staging are often low, and follow-up is highly variable. Rates of recurrence and malignant transformation are exceptionally low but are higher with incomplete staging or incomplete resection.