Understanding the Different Stages of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer has an excessively high rate of fatality, and this is due to the lack of awareness. The cancer is usually found in later stages which lowers the chance of successful recovery. Understanding the different stages of this deadly cancer are important for those who are newly diagnosed.

 Stage I

This is the youngest of all ovarian cancer stages. Usually, cancer victims are diagnosed after this stage has already completed. In the first stage the cancer is contained within the ovaries; during the last phase of stage one is when it begins to spread outside of the ovaries.

  • IA: In this sub-stage, the cancer has not spread outside of one ovary. It is usually inside of only one, and this is truly advantageous to cancer treatment. The ovary can be removed and further close observations can be made to ensure the cancer does not come back.
  • IB: This phase is similar to “IA” the cancer would be contained within only the ovaries., however both ovaries have been afflicted by the cancer.
  • IC: At the end of stage I, the cancer may affect a single ovary or both. In IC, this usually comes with one or more of three other scenarios. Generally, the most likely cases would be that the cancer has spread to the outer wall of the ovary or that a fluid-filled cancerous cyst has ruptured. This stage can also be indicated if malignant cells are discovered with a procedure known as peritoneal washing.
Ovarian cancer staging
Picture illustrating the different stages of ovarian cancer – Healthy ovaries, Stage I, II, III and Stage IV ovarian cancer.

Stage II

The second stage of ovarian cancer involves the spread of the cancer into the different areas of the pelvis. This means that it is no longer confined to the ovaries, but reaching into different tissues as well.

  • IIA: This stage indicates that cancer has spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes. While it may have spread, this stage indicates that washings have not turned up positive for malignant cells.
  • IIB: Instead of the tissues mentioned in IIA, the cancer spreads into other tissues within the pelvis. Again, there are no cancerous cells discovered within peritoneal washes.
  • IIC: This stage is a combination of either IIA or IIB with the discovery of cancer cells during a peritoneal wash. This is usually when the cancer becomes difficult to treat, but treatment can still be fairly successful.

Stage III

Unfortunately, ovarian cancer staging usually lands at stage III for many patients upon the discovery of this form of cancer. This cancer is a silent killer. This stage is the beginning of a very difficult battle, as it indicates that the cancer has spread outside of the ovaries and pelvis.

  • IIIA: During this stage, the cancer has spread to the abdominal lining but cannot be seen with the naked eye. It also has not spread into the lymph nodes.
  • IIIB: This stage is similar to IIIA, but the cancer within the abdominal lining can be seen. The cancer that can be seen within the lining is under 2 centimeters in size, however.
  • IIIC: In the last part of stage III, the lymph nodes are affected by the cancer, or the cancer within the lining of the abdomen is over 2 centimeters in size.

Stage IV

This is the final stage of ovarian cancer, and almost always comes with a very poor prognosis. At this point, the cancer has spread into the victim’s liver, lungs, the fluid around the lungs, or anywhere else outside of the abdominal cavity. Once the cancer has progressed to this final stage it is nearly impossible to treat.