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Ovarian cancer health centre

Ovarian cancer - What will happen to me?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Ovarian cancer is serious, but it can be treated. No one can say for certain what will happen to you if you have ovarian cancer. Different people react to cancer and to treatments in different ways. All we can do is talk about what happened to other people with ovarian cancer, in studies.

Here are some things you should know.

  • Doctors usually talk about how likely it is that you'll be alive five years after your cancer is diagnosed. This is because ovarian cancer is most likely to come back in the first five years after treatment. It doesn't mean you won't live longer than five years.

  • You'll probably always need to be careful and have regular check-ups, even 20 years later.

  • Doctors can't tell for certain what course your cancer will take. For example, some women with advanced ovarian cancer live a long time.

What will happen to you depends mainly on the following things.

  • The stage of your cancer: Doctors divide ovarian cancer into four main stages, from stage 1 (the earliest) to stage 4 (the most advanced). The lower the stage, the longer you're likely to live and the better your chance of being cured. (To learn how doctors tell the stage of your cancer, see What stage is my ovarian cancer?) In studies, more than 90 in 100 women with stage 1 ovarian cancer were cured.[24] Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is usually at a later stage (stage 3 or 4) by the time women see their doctor. This makes a cure less likely.

  • The grade of your cancer: The grade of your ovarian cancer tells how much (or how little) the cancer cells look like the healthy cells of an ovary. Your outlook is usually better if your cancer has a lower grade, because it is less likely to spread. (To learn how doctors tell the grade of your cancer, see What grade is my ovarian cancer?) But the grade isn't as important as the stage.

  • How much cancer is left after surgery: A surgeon will try to remove as much of your cancer as possible. But sometimes surgeons can't remove all of the cancer. The less cancer that's left, the longer you're likely to live.

For more information, see Survival rates for ovarian cancer. But remember, we can't tell you what your personal chances are of surviving ovarian cancer.


For references related to Ovarian cancer click here.
Last Updated: February 23, 2011
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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