Ovarian Cancer Stages & Treatment

If you think, or know, you have ovarian cancer, you're understandably worried about your future. Ovarian cancer is called the silent disease. Why? It often goes undetected for years until it's advanced to a late stage.

Yes, this makes it a tough cancer to treat. But we have tougher treatments for all types and stages of ovarian cancer. Even women facing ovarian cancer at an advanced stage are living longer, and with a high quality of life.

At UVA Health, you'll find the most innovative ovarian cancer treatment for all types and stages of ovarian cancer. Our physicians are some of the nation’s top doctors in gynecologic oncology (cancer care focused on women's reproductive organs). They're widely recognized in their field for not only treating cancer but preventing it as well. They're a big reason we're an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. 

What's Gynecologic Oncology & Why You Need This Expertise? 

At UVA Cancer Center, you won't just find experts who treat cancer. You'll have a team of gynecologic oncology experts. This means they focus their careers on beating cancers that strike the female reproductive system. 

Here's why you'll want to get a second opinion at UVA before starting treatment. We have the region’s only gynecologic oncology team made up of:

  • Gynecologic cancer surgeons
  • Gynecologic pathologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Clinical research coordinators
  • Oncology nurses
  • Genetic counselors

This team means you'll get state-of-the-art care tailored to your needs and based on the stage of your cancer.

Our physicians, nurses, researchers, and other staff members provide care to thousands of women with gynecologic cancers. They perform hundreds of major operations each year. This gives them an unmatched level of expertise. They're also committed to bringing better treatments for all types and stages of ovarian cancer. They do this through both pioneering laboratory and clinical research. 

Types of Ovarian Cancer 

Ovarian cancer occurs in the ovary. This type of cancer may start in the fallopian tubes or in the peritoneal cavity (the space within the abdomen that contains the intestines, the stomach, and the liver). 

There are three types of ovarian cancer. The type depends on the kind of cells where the cancer grows.

  • Epithelial cells cover the surface of the ovary. Most of the tumors that grow here are benign, or not cancer. About 85% to 90% of ovarian cancer cases are epithelial ovarian cancer.
  • Germ cells form in the eggs in the ovary. We call the tumors that form here germ cell ovarian cancer.
  • Stromal cells form in the ovary and produce female hormones.

How We Diagnose Ovarian Cancer

In early stages, ovarian cancer grows unnoticed. You likely won't feel symptoms until your ovarian cancer has advanced to a later stage. At this point, a doctor can do a pelvic exam. They feel the vagina, rectum, and lower abdomen for masses or growths.

Your doctor may also order other tests:

  • Transvaginal ultrasound 
  • Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) 
  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy to help stage the cancer

At UVA, our experts are researching more effective ways to find ovarian cancer at an early stage, when treatment can be most effective. This is especially important for women who have a high risk for ovarian cancer. 

If you have a family history of ovarian cancer, you'll want to learn more about our program for high-risk ovarian cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Stages

Like other cancers, ovarian cancer has 4 main stages. A stage describes how much the cancer has spread and where it is located in the body.

Stage 1
The cancer is only in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes. We know that most ovarian cancer starts in the fallopian tubes.

Stage 2 
Means the cancer has spread to nearby organs like the bladder or uterus.

Stage 3
The cancer has spread to lymph nodes or to locations outside of the pelvic area.

Stage 4
The ovarian cancer has spread throughout the body. It may have spread to the lungs, liver, spleen or bones. 

Ovarian Cancer Treatment

We usually treat ovarian cancer with both surgery and chemotherapy. We also offer immunotherapy. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells. Immunotherapy helps your own immune system fight off cancer cells.

Throughout treatment, you'll have a gynecologic oncologist overseeing all aspects of your care. Like other women before you, you'll likely build a strong connection with the experts who provide your ovarian cancer treatment.

Your treatment will be tailored around the type and stage of your cancer. If you need surgery, a gynecologic oncologist will provide expert and innovative surgery to remove all of the cancer. This may include robotic-assisted and minimally invasive surgery. Our expertise means you'll recover faster and with less pain.

If standard treatments don't work for you, you may qualify for a clinical trial. A clinical trial can give you access to a treatment before it may become the new standard of care. We have trials for many stages of ovarian cancer. Learn more about clinical trials available at UVA Cancer Center. 

Support that Surrounds You

Facing cancer is often a lifelong journey. No matter what stage of the journey you're on, find extensive personal support for you and your family.

     

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