Stages of ovarian cancer

The stage of ovarian cancer explains how far it has spread inside your body, where the tumours are and what has happened to your ovaries.

When you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, your doctor will tell you what stage your cancer is at. There are four stages of ovarian cancer:

Stage 1

This is where the cancer is confined to one or both ovaries.

Stage 2

Stage two ovarian cancer occurs when the cancer is also found outside the ovary or ovaries, but has spread no further than the pelvic region (uterus, bladder, lower intestine).

Stage 3

Stage three ovarian cancer affects the abdominal cavity, with cancer cells being found in the abdominal lining and lymph nodes.

Stage 4

Stage four indicates that cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body such as the liver, lungs and brain.


How quickly does ovarian cancer spread?

Different types of ovarian cancer tumours grow at different rates. Your doctor will grade the tumour according to how quickly they expect it to develop. This is worked out by comparing how much the tumour looks like normal tissue.

Cancers that look similar to normal tissue grow slowly and are considered low grade. High-grade cancers do not look like normal tissue and can spread quickly. Ovarian tumours can be divided into four grades:

Grade 0

Grade 0 tumours are also known as borderline tumours or tumours of low malignant potential. They are the least aggressive tumours and look very much like normal tissue cells. They’re unlikely to spread and are usually easy to cure.

Grade 1

Grade 1 tumours look very similar to normal tissue. They are referred to as low grade and tend to grow slowly.

Grade 2

Grade 2 tumours do not look like normal tissue. They grow moderately fast and are sometimes referred to as intermediate grade tumours.

Grade 3

Grade 3 tumours do not look like normal tissue. They grow quickly and in a disorganised way. They are the most aggressive type of cancer.

You can read more about ovarian cancer in our leaflet, 'Ovarian cancer: what you need to know'.