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The Outlook for Ovarian Cancer: Prognosis, Life Expectancy & Survival Rates by Stage

Individual Outlook

If you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you’re probably wondering about your prognosis. While knowing your prognosis can be helpful, it’s only a general guideline. Your individual outlook will depend on many factors, such as your age and overall health.

How Ovarian Cancer Is Staged and What It Means

One of the first things you’ll want to know is the stage of the ovarian cancer. Staging is a way of describing how far the cancer has spread and how aggressive it is. This usually can’t be determined until after surgery. Knowing the stage helps doctors formulate a treatment plan and gives you some idea of what to expect. These are the four stages for ovarian cancer:

Stage 1

In stage 1, the cancer has not spread outside the ovaries. Stage 1A means the cancer is only in one ovary. In stage 1B, the cancer is found in both ovaries. Stage 1C means one or both ovaries contain cancer cells, and there are cancer cells outside an ovary.

Stage 2

In stage 2, the cancer has occurred in one or both ovaries, and it has spread elsewhere within the pelvis. Stage 2A means it has gone from the ovaries to the fallopian tubes, the uterus, or to both. Stage 2B indicates the cancer has migrated to nearby organs like the bladder, sigmoid colon, or rectum.

Stage 3

In stage 3, the cancer is found in one or both ovaries and in the lining of the abdomen, or it has spread to lymph nodes in the abdomen. In Stage 3A, the cancer is found in other pelvic organs and in lymph nodes within the abdominal cavity (retroperitoneal lymph nodes), or in the abdominal lining. Stage 3B is when the cancer has spread to nearby organs within the pelvis. Cancer cells may be found on the outside of the spleen or liver, or in the lymph nodes. Stage 3C means larger deposits of cancer cells are found outside the spleen or liver or it has spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 4

In stage 4, the cancer has spread to distant sites. In stage 4A, cancer cells are present in the fluid around the lungs. Stage 4B means it has reached the inside of the spleen or liver, distant lymph nodes, or to other distant organs such as the skin, lungs, or brain. This is the most advanced stage of ovarian cancer.

Outlook by Stage

The type of ovarian cancer you have is an important factor in determining a prognosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 90 percent of ovarian cancers involve epithelial tumors. This type of tumor forms in the layer of tissue on the outside of the ovaries. Stromal tumors represent about 7 percent of ovarian tumors. They grow in hormone-producing cells. Germ cell tumors are rare and develop in egg-producing cells.

The five-year relative survival rate for these three types of tumors is 44 percent, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Early detection generally results in a better outlook. When diagnosed and treated in stage 1, the five-year relative survival rate is 92 percent. Only about 15 percent of ovarian cancers are diagnosed in stage 1.

Below is the relative five-year survival rate for epithelial ovarian cancer:

StageSurvival Rate

Below is the relative five-year survival rate for ovarian stromal tumors:

StageSurvival Rate

Below is the relative five-year survival rate for ovarian germ cell tumors:

StageSurvival Rate

A woman’s lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is about 1.3 percent.

As reported in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, ovarian cancer was responsible for 14,270 deaths in the United States during 2014. This represents about 2.4 percent of all cancer deaths. Younger women tend to respond to treatment better than women who are 65 or older. There will be about 21,980 newly diagnosed cases in 2014.