Stages of Ovarian Cancer for Patients

in NJ, CT, & MD

Once a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, physicians determine the nature, location, and extent of the cancer in a process known as staging. This information is used to identify the best course of treatment for the patient. At Regional Cancer Care Associates, compassionate, experienced oncologists provide patients in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area with second opinions, staging, and the latest treatments for ovarian cancer.

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

Cancer occurs when mutated cells grow uncontrollably. These cells may form tumors that spread to the tissue nearby or spread to other areas of the body via the blood and lymph circulatory systems. Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries, the pair of female reproductive organs responsible for producing eggs and the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Less commonly, ovarian cancer can develop in the fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries to the uterus.  

Doctor showing ultrasound of her ovaries to woman

What Are the Stages of Ovarian Cancer?

Doctors use a framework of four stages of ovarian cancer to identify treatment options for a particular patient. There are also subcategories within the stages. Through a physical examination and history, imaging, and laboratory examination of biopsied tissue, doctors classify patients with ovarian cancer into one of the following stages:

Stage I

Cancer is found only in the ovaries or fallopian tubes at Stage I. At this point, ovarian cancer is further categorized into these groups:

  • Stage IA: Cancer is found inside one ovary
  • Stage IB: Cancer is found inside both ovaries
  • Stage IC: Cancer is found in both ovaries, plus:
    • Stage IC1: Cancer has spread during surgery into the abdomen or pelvic area
    • Stage IC2: Cancer has spread prior to surgery, when cancer cells located on the outside of the ovary, or from a burst tumor, moved into the abdomen and pelvic area
    • Stage IC3: Cancer is confirmed in laboratory tests to be present in fluid from the abdomen and pelvic area

Stage II

With Stage II, cancer is found in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes and in nearby organs, such as the uterus, bladder, colon, or rectum, or the patient has primary peritoneal cancer, a rare malignancy that develops in the thin sheet that lines the inside wall of the abdomen. Further Stage II classifications include:

  • Stage IIA: Cancer is found in the uterus or fallopian tubes, as well as the ovaries
  • Stage IIB: Cancer is found in other pelvic organs, such as the bladder, colon, or rectum

Stage III

In addition to one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes, and an organ in the pelvic area, cancer is found in the peritoneum, stomach lining, and/or lymph nodes behind the abdomen. This stage is broken into the following subcategories:

  • Stage IIIA: Cancer is found in the lymph nodes
  • Stage IIIB: Cancer is found in the abdomen, and growths are less than 2 cm across
  • Stage IIIC: Cancer found in the abdomen is larger than 2 cm across

Stage IV

At Stage IV, cancer is found in areas of the body distant from the reproductive organs. Additional classifications include:

  • Stage IVA: Cancer is found in fluid around the lungs
  • Stage IVB: Cancer is found inside lymph nodes, tissue, and organs

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

In the early stages, ovarian cancer does not always cause symptoms. However, being aware of ovarian cancer signs and symptoms can help women recognize developments that warrant prompt medical evaluation. Regular checkups, knowledge of family medical history, and paying attention to changes in the body are all good practices for the early detection and treatment of any cancer. Ovarian cancer symptoms may include:

  • Bloating, heartburn, or upset stomach
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge
  • Pain in the pelvic area or back
  • Fatigue
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation and frequent or urgent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss

It is important to note that these symptoms may signify the presence of many different conditions. While having one or more of these symptoms is not cause for panic, it is a reason to make an appointment with a medical professional.

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

While any woman or person assigned female sex at birth can develop ovarian cancer, some people are at greater risk for developing the disease than others. The following risk factors do not guarantee that a person will develop cancer, but they increase the likelihood relative to the average person:

  • Older age
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Receiving post-menopausal hormone therapy
  • Having a family history of ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer
  • Being diagnosed with breast cancer in the past
  • Utilizing certain types of fertility treatment

Women should be aware of their risk factors because early detection is critical for achieving the best possible treatment outcomes. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer that has not spread outside the ovaries is 93%, while the five-year survival rate decreases to 31% once the disease has moved to distant organs.

How Does Staging Impact Treatment?

Most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer undergo a hysterectomy, in which the uterus is removed, along with the ovaries and fallopian tubes. During surgery, lymph nodes and other tissues will be removed for evaluation in the laboratory.

If a patient is in her childbearing years, wishes to have a future pregnancy, and has Stage I cancer confined to one ovary, she may be eligible for initial treatment that does not involve a hysterectomy. Chemotherapy often is administered following surgery. It also may be given before surgery to shrink the size of the tumor. Radiation therapy is another tool for shrinking or killing malignant cell growths. The expert oncologists at Regional Cancer Care Associates also treat ovarian cancer with targeted therapy, which acts against cancerous cells with specific genetic mutations, and immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the body’s own immune system to identify and kill cancer cells.

Find Expert Care at Regional Cancer Care Associates

The highly experienced medical oncologist of Regional Cancer Care Associates can help confirm and stage an ovarian cancer diagnosis. Using the latest therapies and technologies, these medical professionals will also develop and implement a personalized treatment plan. To learn more about ovarian cancer treatment, contact us or visit one of our 25 convenient office locations in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area.

Regional Cancer Care Associates — Cancer care you can trust

At Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA), we feature the best of modern oncologic medicine. We meet the highest standard of cancer care in both quality and safety. At the same time, we lead with our hearts, offering an environment characterized by compassion. We focus on you, individually, and work with you and your family to ensure your care is second to none.

For more information, please call (844) 346-7222. You can schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.

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