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What Is the Prognosis for Ovarian Cancer?

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  • Written By: S. Ashraf
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2016
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The prognosis for ovarian cancer is different from patient to patient. Ovarian cancer is a particularly complex cancer that might not be diagnosed until late in its development, so doctors or other healthcare professionals must consider several factors when discussing the prognosis for ovarian cancer in an individual patient. For ovarian cancer, a favorable prognosis is made if the doctor thinks that the cancer probably will respond well to being treated, but if the cancer might be difficult to control, the prognosis will be less favorable for the woman’s survival. Any prognosis, though, is simply a prediction or opinion, and a doctor cannot be completely sure about the outlook for any individual patient; in fact, a prognosis might change if treatment is successful or the cancer becomes more aggressive.

Some factors that a doctor, or oncologist, will be concerned about in making a prognosis are the stage of ovarian cancer the patient is in, the type and location of the cancer, the woman’s age, other health conditions and how she responds to the treatment she undergoes. Generally speaking, the stage of ovarian cancer the woman has when diagnosed is the most important factor in making a prognosis for ovarian cancer. Other factors might be somewhat involved, but the stage of the cancer when first detected is, by far, the best predictor of the prognosis for ovarian cancer for the patient. Medical researchers have identified four major stages of ovarian cancer.

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In Stage I, the cancer is limited to just one or both of the ovaries. Stage II ovarian cancer means that the cancer has spread from the ovary but is confined to the pelvis, or below the navel, and might have invaded the fallopian tubes or uterus. In Stage III, the cancer has moved outside the pelvis and into the abdomen. A diagnosis of Stage IV ovarian cancer means that the cancer has moved into the liver and possibly into the area around the lungs.

Five-year survival rates are the standards that are used to give a patient a prognosis for ovarian cancer. This rate is simply the percentage of women who remain alive five years after being diagnosed. More than 90 percent of women who are diagnosed while the cancer is limited to the ovaries will be alive five years later. With Stage II ovarian cancer, about 70 percent will survive past five years. By comparison, of those who are diagnosed at Stage III or IV, only 25 percent will be living five years later.

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