Skip to nav Skip to content

Female patient discussing ovarian cancer stages

Ovarian cancer stages are assigned based on an evaluation of tissue samples taken from the pelvic and abdominal regions. Staging is a standardized process that provides useful information about cancer spread. This information is important because ovarian cancer symptoms and treatment can vary at different stages.

What are the stages of ovarian cancer?

There are four main stages of ovarian cancer:

  • Stage 1 – The cancer is confined to one or both ovaries.
  • Stage 2 – The cancer has spread beyond the ovaries to other locations in the pelvis, such as the uterus or fallopian tubes.
  • Stage 3 – The cancer has spread beyond the pelvis to the lining of the abdomen (peritoneum) or nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4 – The cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes and organs.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Early-stage ovarian cancer may produce only mild or nondescript symptoms – or no symptoms at all. That’s mainly because the ovaries are very small organs located deep within the abdominal cavity, and small cellular changes are unlikely to have a noticeable effect on the surrounding structures. However, as the cancer spreads and begins pressing on the pelvis, the abdomen and distant lymph nodes and organs, a variety of symptoms can emerge. These symptoms range in severity, although the further the cancer progresses, the more painful the symptoms can be.  

The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

  • Abdominal pain, fullness and bloating
  • Pelvic discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • A persistent need to urinate
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Backaches
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

The key to an early diagnosis is recognizing anything out of the ordinary and bringing it to the attention of a physician.

Medically reviewed by Hye Sook Chon, MD, gynecologic oncologist

If you’d like to learn more about ovarian cancer stages and symptoms, you can request an appointment with gynecologic oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.