About 75% of women survive ovarian cancer at least 1 year after diagnosis. Nearly half (46%) or women are alive 5 years after diagnosis. (This is called the 5-year survival rate.) In general, overall 5-year survival rates (all stages combined) increased from 37% in 1974 to greater than 50% currently.
Survival rates vary depending on different factors, including age and the stage at which it is detected. In general, women younger than age 65 have better survival rates than older women.
Unfortunately, most patients with ovarian cancer are not diagnosed until the disease is advanced. This usually means the cancer has spread to the upper abdomen. In order to establish a prognosis and determine treatment, the doctor needs to know the cell type, stage, and grade of the disease.
Prognosis by Cell Type
When examined under the microscope, there are a number of different cell types of ovarian cancer. Mucinous and clear cell tumors tend to be more difficult to treat.
Prognosis by Stage
Cancers are staged (I through IV) according to whether they are still localized (remaining in the ovary) or have spread beyond the original site.
The survival rate varies according to the cancer stage:
- Five-year survival rates are over 90% if the cancer is still confined to the ovary at diagnosis. However, only 19% of ovarian cancers are found at this stage.
- If the cancer has spread to nearby regions in the pelvis, the 5-year survival rate is about 70%.
- If the cancer has spread to sites outside the pelvis, the 5-year survival rate is about 30%.
Prognosis by Grade
Tumors are graded according to how well or poorly organized they are (their differentiation). Ovarian tumors are graded on a scale of 1, 2, or 3. Grade 1 tends to closely resemble normal tissue and has a better prognosis than grade 3, which indicates very abnormal, poorly defined tissue.
Review Date: 11/04/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.