Stages of Ovarian Cancer and What Each Means for You
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, your cancer was probably “staged” by your oncologist. The staging indicates if and where your ovarian cancer has spread and gives an indicator on the prognosis of the cancer. Although it may seem impersonal, it is a useful tool for the physicians treating you.
How Ovarian Cancer Is Staged
While your cancer may have been diagnosed in a variety of ways, staging the cancer typically is done during surgery by taking tissue samples from different areas and assessing for cancer cells — the presence of cancer cells indicate that the cancer has spread.
Not only is staging important because it indicates if and where the cancer has spread, it also gives your oncologist a clue as to how to best treat your cancer.
It is important to note that the stage of your cancer does not change; the stage will always be the stage at diagnosis, even if the cancer metastasizes to different areas or if it recurs after remission.
Although there are different methods of staging ovarian cancer, the most common is the FIGO system. The FIGO system assigns letters to the stage based on the findings of the biopsies obtained during surgery.
The extent of the tumor uses the letter T. The absence or presence of metastasis uses the letter M. The presence of cancer in nearby lymph nodes uses the letter N. This information is compiled and used to determine the final stage.
The cancer has not spread outside of the ovaries and/or fallopian tubes. The following are further used to describe this stage of ovarian cancer:
Stage IA (T1a, N0, M0): cancer is in one ovary or fallopian tube.
Stage IB (T1b, N0, M0): cancer is in both ovaries or fallopian tubes but not on the outer surfaces.
Stage IC (T1C, N0, M0): the cancer is in both ovaries or fallopian tubes. In addition:
- IC1: the capsule surrounding the tumor broke, allowing the possibility of cancer cells to leak into the abdomen and pelvis.
- IC2: cancer is on the outer surface of the ovaries or fallopian tubes.
- IC3: cancer cells are in the fluid of the abdomen.
The survival rate for stage I cancers is promising:
- I: 90 percent
- IA: 94 percent
- IB: 92 percent
- IC: 85 percent
The cancer has spread to other organs, but the spread is limited to the pelvis. This may include the bladder, the colon and the rectum. Lymph nodes or distant sites are not involved.
Stage IIA (T2a, N0, M0): cancer has spread into the uterus
Stage IIB (T2b, N0, M0): cancer has spread to other pelvic organs, such as the rectum.
Survival rates for this stage are:
- II: 70 percent
- IIA: 78 percent
- IIB: 73 percent
Next page: A look at stage III and IV of ovarian cancer.