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Cancer

Ovarian Cancer: Stages

What does stage of cancer mean?

The stage of a cancer is how much and how far the cancer has spread in your body. Your healthcare provider uses exams and tests to find out the size of the cancer and where it is. He or she can also see if the cancer has grown into nearby areas, and if it has spread to other parts of your body. The stage of a cancer is one of the most important things to know when deciding how to treat the cancer.

The stage of ovarian cancer (and fallopian tube cancer, which is often treated the same as ovarian cancer) is usually determined after surgery. This is done by looking at the removed tissue in the pathology lab. This is known as surgically staging the cancer.

Ovarian and fallopian tube cancer is staged using the AJCC and FIGO system. AJCC stands for American Joint Committee on Cancer. FIGO stands for International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics. These two staging systems are a lot alike. Both define cancers by Roman numerals 0 through IV. The lower the stage, the less the cancer has spread. The higher the stage, the more the cancer has spread.

What are the stages of ovarian cancer?

These are the stages of ovarian and fallopian tube cancer and their definitions. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider to explain your cancer’s stage to you. Gynecologic oncologists are specialists who have done extra training in the diagnosis and treatment of these types of cancer. It’s best to have ovarian cancer treated by one of these healthcare providers.

Stage I

Cancer is in one or both of the ovaries or fallopian tubes. It has not spread. Stage I is further divided into three stages.

Stage IA

Cancer is in a single ovary or fallopian tube. It has not spread onto the outer surface of the ovary or fallopian tube. Healthcare providers have not found cancer cells in nearby lymph nodes or in fluid or washings from the abdomen or pelvis.

Stage IB

Cancer is in both ovaries or fallopian tubes. It has not spread to their outer surfaces. Healthcare providers have not found cancer cells in nearby lymph nodes or in fluid or washings from the abdomen or pelvis.

Stage IC

The cancer is in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes. Plus, at least one of these three facts is also true:

  • Cancer is on the outer surface of at least one of the ovaries or fallopian tubes.

  • The outer wall of a fluid-filled tumor, called a cystic tumor, has ruptured either before or during the surgery.

  • Cancer cells have been found in fluid or washings from the abdomen or pelvis.

Stage II

Cancer is in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes. It has also grown onto or into other pelvic organs. These might include the uterus, fallopian tubes, bladder, colon, or rectum. The cancer has not spread to lymph nodes, the lining of the abdomen, or distant organs. Stage II is further divided into three stages.

Stage IIA

The cancer that started in the ovaries has spread onto or into the uterus or the fallopian tubes, or both. Or cancer that started in the fallopian tubes has spread onto or into the uterus or the ovaries, or both. Healthcare providers have not found cancer cells in nearby lymph nodes or in fluid or washings from the abdomen or pelvis.

Stage IIB

The cancer has spread onto or grown into other organs within the pelvis. These may include the bladder, colon, or rectum. Healthcare providers have not found cancer cells in nearby lymph nodes or in fluid or washings from the abdomen or pelvis.

Stage IIC

The cancer has spread to the uterus, bladder, colon, or other organs in the pelvis. Healthcare providers have also found cancer cells in fluid or washings from the abdomen or pelvis.

Stage III

The cancer is in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes. Also, one or both of these things has happened:

  • Cancer has spread to the abdominal lining. This is called the peritoneum.

  • Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage III is further divided into three stages.

Stage IIIA

Cancer is in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes. Cancerous cells are also in the abdominal lining. But the cancer there is too small to be seen with the naked eye. The cancer may have also spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage IIIB

Cancer is in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes. There are small, visible cancerous deposits, which are less than 2 centimeters (cm) across, in the abdomen. (Two cm is about 0.8 inch.) Deposits may be on the outside of the liver or the spleen. Cancer may have also spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage IIIC

Cancer is in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes. Plus, one or both of these cases is true:

  • Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

  • Deposits of cancer (larger than 2 cm across) are in the abdomen. They may be on the outside of the liver or the spleen.

Stage IV

The cancer has spread outside the pelvic region to distant sites. These may include the inside of the liver or spleen, lungs, or other organs that aren’t in the abdomen.

Recurrent ovarian cancer

This is cancer that has returned or come back after treatment. The original stage that was assigned doesn’t change.

Talking with your healthcare provider

Once your cancer is staged, your healthcare provider will talk with you about what the stage means for your treatment. Make sure to ask any questions or talk about your concerns.

Online Medical Reviewer: Goodman, Howard, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2016
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