The diagnostic tests help show whether you have ovarian cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. This process is called staging and it helps your health care team recommend the best treatment for you. In most instances, your doctor will not have enough information to work out the stage of the ovarian cancer until after surgery. The staging system most commonly used for ovarian cancer is the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) system. It divides ovarian cancer into four stages. Each stage is further divided into sub-stages, such as A, B, C, which indicate increasing amounts of tumour. Stages I–II mean that it is early ovarian cancer. Stages III–IV mean the cancer is advanced. About seven out of 10 women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at stages III or IV.
Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You may wish to discuss your prognosis and treatment options with your doctor, but it is not possible for any doctor to predict the exact course of the disease in an individual person.
Epithelial cancer—the stage and grade of the cancer will influence the outcome. If epithelial ovarian cancer is diagnosed and treated before the cancer has spread outside the ovary (stage I), it has a good prognosis. Many women with more advanced cancer may respond well to treatment, but the cancer often comes back (recurs) and further treatment is needed.
Germ cell and stromal cell tumours—these can usually be treated successfully.
Borderline tumour—this usually has a good prognosis.
Discussing your prognosis and thinking about the future can be challenging and stressful. It may help to talk with family and friends. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20 if you need more information or emotional support.
Your GP will probably arrange the first tests to assess your symptoms. If these tests do not rule out cancer, you will usually be referred to a gynaecological oncologist, who specialises in treating women with ovarian cancer. The gynaecological oncologist may arrange further tests, advise you about treatment options and perform any recommended surgery. You will be cared for by a range of health professionals who specialise in different aspects of your treatment. This is often referred to as a multidisciplinary team (MDT).
This website page was last reviewed and updated October 2018.
Information reviewed by: A/Prof Alison Brand, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, and Chair, Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group, NSW; Dr Scott Carruthers, Director, Radiation Oncology, Lyell McEwin Hospital, and Deputy Director, Radiation Oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Elizabeth Cooch, Cancer Support Nurse, Ovarian Cancer Australia; Dr Serene Foo, Medical Oncologist, Austin Hospital, Epworth Eastern Hospital, and Mercy Hospital for Women, VIC; Keely Gordon-King, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland; Carol Lynch, Consumer; A/Prof Gillian Mitchell, Honorary Medical Oncologist, Familial Cancer Centre, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and The Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne, VIC; Claire Quenby, Social Worker, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, WA; Jan Priaulx, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Hayley Russell, Support Coordinator, Ovarian Cancer Australia.