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Ovarian cancer health centre

Treatments for early (stage 1) ovarian cancer

BMJ Group Medical Reference

We haven't looked at the research on these treatments in as much detail as we've looked at the research on most of the treatments we cover. (To read more, see Our method.) But we wanted to cover these treatments because you may have questions about them.

Only about 1 in 4 women have early ovarian cancer (stage 1) when they are diagnosed. Stage 1 means the cancer hasn't spread outside your ovary. It's very different from ovarian cancer that has spread.

  • Early ovarian cancer is much easier to treat than cancer that has spread.

  • It can be cured in around 9 in 10 women.

  • It shows up more often in younger women.

  • Sometimes it's found because it causes pain in a woman's abdomen or bleeding from her vagina. But in most women, it doesn't cause any symptoms.

  • It's usually found when a woman is having a regular checkup or a test for some other reason.

Stages of early ovarian cancer

Early ovarian cancer is split into stage 1A, stage 1B, and stage 1C, with stage 1A being the least serious. The stage of your cancer can sometimes help you and your doctor decide what treatment is best. To learn how doctors tell these stages apart, see What stage is my ovarian cancer?

Treating early ovarian cancer

If you've got early ovarian cancer, you'll probably have surgery to remove it. What kind of surgery you have will depend on:

  • Your age

  • Your cancer

  • Whether you want to get pregnant.

For example, if you still want to have children, your surgeon may remove just your ovary with cancer and leave your healthy one in place. If you're past the menopause, you may decide to have surgery to remove both your ovaries as well as your womb and your fallopian tubes. This will keep your cancer spreading to these areas. To learn more, see Surgery for ovarian cancer.

You might also need chemotherapy to kill any cancer cells that are left after surgery.

For a long time, doctors weren't sure whether women with early (stage 1) ovarian cancer should be treated with chemotherapy. They thought that just having surgery alone would be enough to get rid of the cancer. But some research has shown that women with early ovarian cancer who get chemotherapy live longer than those who don't.[27]

There is some debate among doctors about whether women with stages 1A, 1B, and 1C cancer all benefit from chemotherapy. Some doctors think they do, but some think that only women with stage 1C cancer live longer if they have chemotherapy.[28]

After your operation, if your doctor is completely sure that you have stage 1A or 1B ovarian cancer, he or she may say you don't need chemotherapy. You should discuss this carefully with your doctor.

What can I expect after my treatment?
Last Updated: March 12, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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