The staging process in ovarian cancer covers the spread of cancer beyond the surface of the ovaries. It helps doctors and patients understand how far the disease has gone, how serious the cancer has become and what is the best way that it can be treated.

The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) staging system is used by doctors to speak on the survival rates of patients. FIGO ranges from stages I to stage IV(a).  The lower the stage number, the less cancer has spread. The higher the stage number, the more cancer has spread.

There are two systems that are generally used to determine the stages of ovarian cancer: FIGO and the AJCC.  3 factors are used by these two systems to give the various stages of ovarian cancer. The 3 factors used are listed below:

  • The extent or size of the tumor (T): It is one of the most important factors that give an understanding of whether cancer has spread outside the ovary or anywhere close to the pelvic region and abdomen
  • The spread to lymph nodes that are close by (N): It focuses on the spread of cancer to the lymph nodes close by.
  • The metastasis to distant sites (M): focuses on spread to distant organs such as the liver or bones or even the fluid in the lungs.

What are the different stages of ovarian cancer?

Stage 1

In stage 1 the cancer is confined to the ovaries only. A little or no symptoms are experienced by women. Some might experience abdominal swelling that is caused by a cancerous large cyst. There are different subtypes of stage 1:

  1. Stage IA: The tumor is present inside the ovary and is confined to one ovary. No signs of cancer cells are found in regions outside the ovary.
  2. Stage IB: The cancer is present in the inner surface of both ovaries and doesn't;t spread to any other region.
  3. Stage IC: The cancer is present in either one or both ovaries. This stage has three parts:
  • In the Ic1 stage, the tumor surrounding tissue is broken from which fluid flows into the abdomen and pelvic region.
  • In the Ic2 stage, the cancer is on the outer surface of the ovary, and the tissue surrounding the tumor has burst before surgery.
  • In the Ic3 stage, cancer cells are in the fluid present in the abdomen and pelvic region.

Stage 2

In stage 2 along with the ovaries; cancer has started to spread into the pelvic region and organs.It also has many sub-types:

  • Stage IIA: Cancer has grown into the ovaries or uterus or fallopian tubes but not to nearby lymph nodes or distant areas.

  • Stage IIB: Cancer has spread into nearby pelvic regions like the bladder, rectum, or sigmoid colon but not nearby lymph nodes or distant sites.

Stage 3

The spread of cancer is in either one or both ovaries but has started spreading farther outside the pelvis and into the abdominal cavity.It also has many sub-types:

  • Stage IIIA-1: Cancer spreads organs near the pelvis into the retroperitoneal lymph nodes only.
  • Stage IIIA-2: Cancer spreads or grows into the organs outside the pelvis. Tiny deposits of cancer can be seen in the outer lining of abdominal issues when seen under a microscope.
  • Stage IIIB: Along with ovaries; cancer has also spread into the organs outside the pelvic region. it can be seen by naked eyes. It has not spread to the inside of the liver or spleen or distant sites. It has not spread to the inside of the liver or spleen or distant sites.
  • Stage IIIC: Cancer has also spread or grown into the organs outside the pelvis and is also visible to the naked eye. It may also be present on the outside of the liver or spleen.

Stage 4

Cancer has spread far beyond the ovaries and has reached areas like the spleen, liver, lungs, and other regions that are distant from the region of the actual tumor. It is an advanced stage of cancer. It has two sub-categories:

  • Stage IVA: Cancer cells are in the fluid around the lungs (a malignant pleural emission).
  • Stage IVB: Cancer has spread to the liver or spleen and is also seen to have to the lymph nodes other than the retroperitoneal lymph nodes. It also spread to other organs and distant areas outside the peritoneal cavity (the lungs or bones).