In order to make a definitive diagnosis of ovarian cancer, a gynecologic oncologist must perform surgery to gather samples for analysis by a pathologist. During the surgery, the surgeon will assess how far the disease has spread. This assessment is called “staging.” Along with grading (see below), these assessments help your doctor recommend a treatment plan.
Staging in ovarian cancer and other gynecologic cancers has been standardized by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). While other factors impact prognosis, FIGO stage is by far the most important predictor of long term survival.
For more detailed information on ovarian cancer diagnosis by stage, please see below.
By looking at the cells in the tissue and fluid under a microscope, a pathologist describes the cancer as Grade 1, 2, or 3. Grade 1 is most like ovarian tissue and less likely to spread; Grade 3 cells are more irregular and more likely to metastasize. However, many ovarian cancers are categorized simply as “low grade” or “high grade.” Chemotherapy is often not used to treat low grade Stage I cases.
For more specific information about ovarian cancer, see the American Cancer Society’s Detailed Guide.