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How is ovarian cancer graded?

While the stage of ovarian cancer refers to the extent of primary tumor invasion and cancer spread, the grade refers to the appearance of the ovarian cancer cells. Grade I ovarian cancer cells resemble normal, noncancerous cells while grade III ovarian cancer cells look very different from cells in normal tissue. Grade II ovarian cancer cells somewhat resemble normal cells. The term "well differentiated" may be used to describe low grade ovarian cancer cells. The grade, just like the stage, of ovarian cancer has prognostic implications.

Sharyn N. Lewin, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
Ovarian cancer is divided into four stages by the location of the tumor cells at the time of the initial diagnosis:
  • Stage 1: Cancer confined to one or both ovaries
  • Stage 2: Cancer in one or both ovaries and spread to the pelvis
  • Stage 3: Cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other abdominal organs, excluding the liver
  • Stage 4: Cancer in one or both ovaries, and has spread to the liver or sites outside the abdomen.
By determining this at the time of surgery or radiological exam, a treatment plan can be developed to optimize outcomes.

The cells in the tissue and fluid are also examined under a microscope and a pathologist describes the "grade" of the cancer as Grade 1, 2, or 3.
Grade 1 is most like ovarian tissue and less likely to spread.
Grade 3 cells are more irregular and more likely to metastasize or spread.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.