Ovarian Cancer (Cancer of the Ovaries)

  • Medical Author: Andrew Green, MD
  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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Quick GuideOvarian Cancer Symptoms, Signs, Stages

Ovarian Cancer Symptoms, Signs, Stages

How is ovarian cancer staging determined?

Staging is the process of classifying a tumor according to the extent to which it has spread in the body at the time of diagnosis.

Ovarian cancer staging:

  • Stage 1: Limited to one or both ovaries
  • Stage 2: Limited to the pelvis
  • Stage 3: Disease outside of the pelvis, but limited to the abdomen, or lymph node involvement, but not including the inside of the liver
  • Stage 4: Disease spread to the liver or outside of the abdomen

Complete staging of an ovarian cancer includes hysterectomy, removal of the ovaries, tubes, pelvic and aortic lymph node biopsies or dissection, biopsies of the omentum (a large fatty structure that provides support for abdominal organs), and peritoneal (lining tissue of the abdomen) biopsies.

Ovarian cancer staging is determined surgically, unless it is stage 4 (metastasis outside of the abdomen, or metastasis to the liver -- not on the surface of the liver). If it is stage 4, or very advanced stage 3, then often this is proven with biopsy, and chemotherapy is begun neoadjuvantly (before surgery). If the disease is not obviously stage 4, then aggressive surgical staging and debulking (see next section) often is considered. This decision is based on the health of the patient, as well as the judgment of the surgeon as to the chance of achieving an optimal debulking (see treatment below).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2016

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