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Ovarian Epithelial, Fallopian Tube, and Primary Peritoneal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)

Stages of Ovarian Epithelial, Fallopian Tube, and Primary Peritoneal Cancer

After ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the ovaries or to other parts of the body.

The process used to find out whether cancer has spread within the organ or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. The results of the tests used to diagnose cancer are often also used to stage the disease. (See the General Information section.)

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.

Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:

  • Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
  • Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.

Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.

  • Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.

The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if ovarian epithelial cancer spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are actually ovarian epithelial cancer cells. The disease is metastatic ovarian epithelial cancer, not lung cancer.

The following stages are used for ovarian epithelial, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer:

Stage I

In stage I, cancer is found in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes. Stage I is divided into stage IA, stage IB, and stage IC.

Stage II

In stage II, cancer is found in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes and has spread into other areas of the pelvis or peritoneum. Stage II is divided into stage IIA and stage IIB.

Tumor size compared to everyday objects; shows various measurements of a tumor compared to a pea, peanut, walnut, and lime
Pea, peanut, walnut, and lime show tumor sizes.

Stage III

In stage III, cancer is found in one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes, or is primary peritoneal cancer, and has spread outside the pelvis to other parts of the abdomen and/or to nearby lymph nodes. Stage III is divided into stage IIIA, stage IIIB, and stage IIIC.

Stage IV

In stage IV, cancer has spread beyond the abdomen to other parts of the body. Stage IV is divided into stage IVA and stage IVB.

Ovarian epithelial, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer are grouped for treatment as early or advanced cancer.

Stage I ovarian epithelial, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer are treated as early cancers.

Stages II, III, and IV ovarian epithelial, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer are treated as advanced cancers.

  • Updated: February 9, 2015