Stages of Ovarian Cancer

⚠️There is no standardized screening test for ovarian cancer. It is extremely important to remember an annual Pap test ONLY screens for cervical cancer!


If symptoms of ovarian cancer are present, there are a number of diagnostic tests that may be performed. A pelvic examination may be done to feel for any growths on the ovaries. An ultrasound, during which high frequency sound waves are used to produce images of the ovaries, may also be performed to look for a tumor. A blood test can check for abnormal levels of certain proteins that are present in those with cancer.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, your doctor will want to determine how advanced the cancer is. This is done through a process called staging. 

Ovarian cancer is divided into four stages: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Your doctor will need to know several things about your cancer to stage it:
✔️How large the tumor is
✔️If it has spread beyond the ovaries
✔️Where the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries

Stage 4 ovarian cancer is often called advanced or late-stage ovarian cancer. In stage 4, the cancer has spread beyond the reproductive system and pelvis to other organs. This can include the liver, lungs, brain, or skin.


Stage 4 cancer is divided into two substages: 4A and 4B.


Ovarian cancer stage 4A:
In this substage, cancer cells are found in the fluids surrounding the lungs. This is called malignant pleural effusion. The cancer hasn’t spread to any other locations outside the pelvis or peritoneal cavity. The peritoneum is the membrane lining the cavity of the abdomen and covering the abdominal organs. The peritoneal cavity is the portion of the body covered by the peritoneum.

Ovarian cancer stage 4B: Cancer in this substage has spread to locations outside of the peritoneal cavity. These locations can include the brain, skin, lungs, or nearby lymph nodes.

Ovarian cancer can be difficult to detect and diagnose until it has developed into advanced ovarian cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for women diagnosed with stage 4 cancer is 17 percent

Early-stage ovarian cancer has a better prognosis than advanced ovarian cancer. Being proactive and well-informed are some of the most important factors in your healthcare journey.

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