Are Ovarian Cancer Symptoms Different at Each Stage?

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?

Stage 1 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. When symptoms occur, the most common are abdominal pain, fullness and bloating. The key to an early diagnosis is recognizing anything out of the ordinary and bringing it to the attention of a physician.

In its later stages, ovarian cancer may produce additional symptoms as a growing tumor presses on nearby organs. For instance, pressure on the bladder can result in urinary urgency or frequency, while pressure on the rectum can produce constipation and other changes in bowel habits. As the cancer spreads, a woman may also experience unexplained fatigue, weight loss, backaches and pain during sexual intercourse.

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