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The stage of a cancer is a term used to describe its size and whether it has spread beyond its original area of the body. Knowing the stage of the cancer and how quickly it's likely to grow (the grade|) helps the doctors to decide on the best treatment, and it also gives a rough idea of the outlook.
Like many cancers, ovarian cancer is grouped into four stages, Stages 1–4. For stages 1–3, there are also sub-stages, which further describe the size and extent of the cancer.
It’s often not possible to stage an ovarian cancer before a laparotomy (a type of operation) is done and the results of any biopsies are known.
We describe a commonly used staging system in this section.
Borderline tumours are made up of low-grade cells that are unlikely to spread. They are usually completely cured by surgery and rarely require further treatment.
Stage 1 ovarian cancer only affects the ovaries. This stage is divided into three sub-groups:
Stage 2 ovarian cancer has begun to spread outside the ovaries to other areas within the pelvis. There are three sub-groups:
The cancer has spread beyond the pelvis to the lining of the abdomen (a fatty membrane called the omentum), and/or to abdominal organs such as the lymph nodes in the abdomen, or the upper part of the bowel.
The cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the liver|, lungs| or distant lymph nodes| (for example in the neck).
The grade of a cancer gives an idea of how quickly it may develop. To find the grade of your cancer, your doctors will look at a sample of the cancer cells under the microscope. The cancer may be graded as:
Content last reviewed: 1 February 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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