Can ovarian cancer be cured?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Many cases of ovarian cancer can be cured when it is diagnosed at an early stage. The five year survival rate for patients diagnosed with stage IA cancer is 94 percent. The five year survival rate for those with stage IV disease, however, is 18 percent. The symptoms of ovarian cancer can often be vague so the cancer may not be diagnosed until it has already spread.

Dr. Barbara A. Goff, MD
Gynecologic Oncologist

There are many women with ovarian cancer that are cured of their disease. For women who are diagnosed when their disease has not spread beyond the ovary, cure rates are 70-90 percent. In general the combination of aggressive surgery and aggressive chemotherapy will give you the best chance of cure. Studies have shown that women who have their surgery by gynecologic cancer specialist will have a better chance of cure than women not treated by specialists. One of the reasons for this is that the gynecologic oncologists have received special training to appropriately manage the complex surgery of ovarian cancer. Surgery for ovarian cancer involves appropriate staging and when there is disease that has spread beyond the ovary then aggressive surgery to remove all of the disease is associated with the highest cure rates. Once surgery has been completed then almost all women will require chemotherapy. Chemotherapy given directly into the abdomen (intraperitoneal chemotherapy) has also been shown to improve the cure rates.

When ovarian cancer is detected before it spreads, up to 90 percent of women can be cured with currently available surgery and chemotherapy. However, patients rarely notice the symptoms of ovarian cancer until it has spread to other organs. The bloating, pelvic pain and indigestion that accompany the cancer are often attributed to more common diseases.

One research goal is to develop a simple blood test that can be done with a finger prick each year and that would identify women who need further testing for ovarian cancer with ultrasound. Recent studies in the United Kingdom and in the United States suggest that this may be possible.

Ovarian cancer can be hard to cure—especially if it has spread beyond the ovaries. Knowing where the cancer is in the body, and how far it has spread, helps the doctors come up with the best treatment plan. Ovarian cancer is hard to cure, but treatment may help the person feel better.

Dr. Larry E. Puls, MD
Gynecologic Oncologist

The short answer is most definitely yes.

There are multiple types of ovarian cancer and they are not all created equal. Some are highly curable with surgery alone. Some affect predominately children, and fortunately, most of those are highly curable. The most aggressive category of ovarian cancers is "epithelial cancers."

The good news is we are able to cure 90% of women whose cancer has not spread from their ovary. If the cancer is advanced (i.e, has spread), which unfortunately is very common, we are only able to cure 10-15 percent, however, these women now live much longer lives.

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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.