What is a Krukenberg Tumor?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2018
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A Krukenberg tumor is a type of ovarian tumor which starts in another area of the body and migrates to the ovaries. Around five to six percent of ovarian cancers present as Krukenberg tumors, and the prognosis for patients with this type of tumor is not good. Because these tumors are secondary metastases, rather than primary tumors, identifying one means that a patient has an underlying primary cancer which may have spread to other areas of the body, which would complicate treatment considerably.

These tumors can arise from malignant cells in any mucin-secreting area of the body. The tumor is known as an adenocarcinoma, a reference to the fact that it originates in glandular tissue, and cancers of the breast and gastrointestinal tract are most likely to give rise to a Krukenberg tumor. Historically, people thought that the cancer cells drifted across the abdomen to the site of the ovaries, but there is evidence that they can be carried in the blood or lymph as well.

When a Krukenberg tumor is examined by a pathologist, specialized cells known as signet ring cells are seen. These cells are so filled with mucin that the nucleus of the cell is pushed to one side, and they do vaguely resemble signet rings, hence the name. An alternate name for this type of tumor is a signet ring cell carcinoma; such cancerous tumors can also be found in other areas of the body.


When a Krukenberg tumor is identified, the first step is to figure out where the cancerous cells came from. This information is important when deciding on a course of treatment. In some cases, for example, surgery may be a good option to remove the tumor and other cancerous cells. In others, chemotherapy and radiation with no surgery may be better options to attempt to shrink the cancer or at least halt its spread through the body.

An oncologist can provide more specific information about a prognosis on the basis of the primary site of the cancer, the extent of the spread, and the patient's condition. When evaluating treatment options, patients may also want to consider quality of life issues in addition to the prognosis. For example, one patient may experience a few months of poor quality of life with a decent chance of recovery and relative comfort after that, making treatment well worth it, while another may not have a very long prognosis and may be faced with permanent quality of life issues caused by the cancer treatment.


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Post 7

I was diagnosed with a Krukenberg tumor three and a half years ago. Mine originated from the colon which they saw during surgery. I did six months of chemo because it was also in 18 out of 21 lymph nodes. Just had the port removed in July. So far so good. I have yearly CT scans, which I hold my breath for until I get the results back. Try to eat well, sleep well, live for the day and don't sweat the small stuff. Best of luck to all!

Post 6

My wife has Krukenberg. Is there a way out?

Post 5

I have just been diagnosed with cancer. I had a fibroid, or so they thought, removed. It turned out to be a krukenberg tumor and they need to find the primary. If you have any info or encouraging thoughts or survivor stories please forward them to me.

Post 4

I have krukenberg tumours in my ovaries caused by secondary breast cancer. I am looking for anything inspirational. Any good stories about any long term survivors?

Post 3

@whitesand - I think one of the best things you and your mom could do right now is to get involved with a good support group. Talking to other cancer patients and survivalist will do wonders for your mental outlook on things.

Try to remember that you are not alone and that there are a lot of people out there hurting just like you and me (breast tumor) that are willing to share their stories and pray with you.

Post 2

@whitesand - I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. She's very lucky to have someone so caring and concerned about her as you during this terrible ordeal.

My sister was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer about three years ago. The doctors first thought it too was ovarian cancer, but later discovered the signet ring cell. I've been told they're very difficult to identify.

I couldn't say what is right for your mom but the best krukenberg tumor treatment for my sister was chemo-therapy. Even though the prognosis is not so good, we just take it one day at a time and cherish every moment.

Post 1

My mom was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer and had just recently undergone surgery. Since then, we've learned that the tumor had a signet ring cell. Now the doctors are trying to figure out where the krukenberg tumour came from so they can begin the appropriate chemo treatment.

She has a good doctor and is under the very best care possible but besides all of that, we're still very frightened. I've been searching for as much literature as I can find both online and offline about krukenberg cancer but there just isn't that much out there. Does anyone have any good resources they could direct me to?

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