To plan the best treatment for ovarian cancer, your gynecologic oncologist needs to know the extent (stage) of the disease. The stage is based on whether the tumor has invaded nearby tissues or is being spread through the lymph system. Staging is usually done after surgery and after ovarian cancer diagnostic tests are completed.
Stages of Ovarian Cancer
Stages are based on where the cancer is found and the results of a physical exam, imaging scans, and biopsies.
Stage I Ovarian Cancer
Cancer cells are found in one or both ovaries. Cancer cells may be found on the surface of the ovaries or in fluid collected from the abdomen. Stage I is divided into stages IA, IB, and IC.
Stage IA: Cancer is found inside a single ovary or fallopian tube
Stage IB: Cancer is found inside both ovaries or fallopian tubes
- Stage IC: Cancer is found inside one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes and one of the following is true:
cancer is also found on the outside surface of one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes; or
the capsule (outer covering) of the ovary ruptured (broke open) before or during surgery; or
cancer cells are found in the fluid of the peritoneal cavity (the body cavity that contains most of the organs in the abdomen) or in washings of the peritoneum (tissue lining the peritoneal cavity)
Stage II Ovarian Cancer
Cancer cells have spread from one or both ovaries to other tissues in the pelvis. Stage II cancers are divided into stages IIA and IIB.
Stage IIA: Cancer has spread from where it originated to other areas such as the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries.
Stage IIB: Cancer cells have spread to organs in the peritoneal cavity (the space that contains the abdominal organs)
Stage III Ovarian Cancer
Cancer cells have spread to tissues outside the pelvis or to the regional lymph nodes. Stage III is divided into stages IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC.
- In Stage IIIA, one of the following is true:
cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the area outside or behind the peritoneum only; or
cancer cells that can be seen only with a microscope have spread to the surface of the peritoneum outside the pelvis. Cancer may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Stage IIIB: Cancer has spread to the peritoneum outside the pelvis and the cancer in the peritoneum is no more than 2 centimeters. Cancer may have reached lymph nodes behind the peritoneum.
Stage IIIC: Cancer has spread to the peritoneum outside the pelvis and the cancer in the peritoneum is 2 centimeters or larger. Cancer may have also spread to regional lymph nodes, the liver, or the spleen.
Stage IV Ovarian Cancer
Cancer cells have spread to tissues outside the abdomen and pelvis. Cancer cells may be found inside the liver, in the lungs, or in other organs. Stage IV is divided into stages IVA and IVB.
Stage IVA: Cancer cells are found in extra fluid that builds up around the lungs.
Stage IVB: Cancer has spread to organs and tissues outside the abdomen, including lymph nodes in the groin.
Ovarian Cancer Grades
Doctors also describe ovarian cancer by their grade. The grade describes how much cancer cells look like healthy cells when viewed under a microscope. If the cancer looks similar to healthy tissue and has different cell groupings, it is called “well-differentiated” or a “low-grade tumor.” If it looks very different from healthy tissue, it is called “poorly differentiated” or a “high-grade tumor.”
Grades 1, 2, and 3 describe how abnormal the cancer cells look. Grade 1 cancer cells are less likely to grow and spread than Grade 3 cells.
The results of the staging and grading process will impact the ovarian cancer treatments that are needed.
Find a Gynecologic Cancer Specialist Near You
The comprehensive approach offered by our gynecologic cancer team at Affiliated Oncologists combines the most advanced treatments with education and support services. Our oncologists specialize in women’s cancers and are ready to talk to you about your diagnosis and personalized ovarian cancer treatment options.
Our gynecologic cancer centers are located throughout South Chicago, including Downers Grove and Oak Lawn, IL.