Ovarian Cancer Staging
Your Cancer Status
Prior to planning your treatment regimen, your doctor needs to know the grade of the tumor and the extent (stage) of the disease. A pathologist assigns the grade (1 to 3) to describe how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope. Grade 1 cancer cells are not as likely as to grow and spread as Grade 3 cells. The stage is based on whether the tumor has invaded nearby tissues, whether the cancer has spread, and if so, to what parts of the body.
Your doctor may rely on the following to determine whether the cancer has spread:
- CT scan: Doctors often use CT scans to make pictures of organs and tissues in the pelvis or abdomen. An x-ray machine linked to a computer takes several pictures. You may receive contrast material by mouth and by injection into your arm or hand. The contrast material helps the organs or tissues show up more clearly. Abdominal fluid or a tumor may show up on the CT scan.
- Chest x-ray: X-rays of the chest can show tumors or fluid.
- Barium enema x-ray: Your doctor may order a series of x-rays of the lower intestine. You are given an enema with a barium solution. The barium outlines the intestine on the x-rays. Areas blocked by cancer may show up on the x-rays.
- Colonoscopy: Your doctor inserts a long, lighted tube into the rectum and colon. This exam can help tell if cancer has spread to the colon or rectum.
- Surgery: In many cases, surgery (laparotomy or laparoscopy) is necessary to determine the actual stage of your cancer. The surgeon may take many samples of tissue from the pelvis and abdomen to look for cancer. If, during a laparotomy cancer is detected, the surgeon may commence the “debulking” procedure.
The Four Stages of Ovarian Cancer
- Stage I: Cancer cells are found in one or both ovaries. Cancer cells may be found on the surface of the ovaries or in fluid collected from the abdomen.
- Stage II: Cancer cells have spread from one or both ovaries to other tissues in the pelvis. Cancer cells are found on the fallopian tubes, the uterus, or other tissues in the pelvis. Cancer cells may be found in fluid collected from the abdomen.
- Stage III: Cancer cells have spread to tissues outside the pelvis or to the regional lymph nodes. Cancer cells may be found on the outside of the liver.
- Stage IV: Cancer cells have spread to tissues outside the abdomen and pelvis. Cancer cells may be found inside the liver, in the lungs, or in other organs.