Stage 1

Stage 1 ovarian cancer means the cancer is only in the ovaries. Surgery is the main treatment. Some women need chemotherapy.

The stage of a cancer tells the doctor how far it has grown and if it has spread. The tests and scans you have to diagnose your cancer will give some information about the stage.  But your doctor might not be able to tell you the exact stage until you have surgery.

Doctors use a simple 1 to 4 staging system for ovarian cancer. It is called the FIGO system after its authors - the International Federation of Gynaecological Oncologists.

What is stage 1?

Stage 1 ovarian cancer is only in the ovaries. It is divided into 3 groups:

Stage 1A means the cancer is completely inside one ovary

Stage 1B means the cancer is completely inside both ovaries

Stage 1C is split in to 3 groups:

  • stage 1C1 means the cancer is in one or both ovaries and the ovary ruptures (bursts) during surgery
  • stage 1C2 means the cancer is in one or both ovaries and the ovary ruptures (bursts) before surgery or there is some cancer on the surface of an ovary
  • stage 1C3 means the cancer is in one or both ovaries and there are cancer cells in fluid taken from inside your abdomen during surgery
Diagram showing stage 1 ovarian cancer

Treating stage 1 ovarian cancer

Doctors usually class stage 1 cancer as early ovarian cancer. This means the cancer is still contained within the ovaries.

The main treatment is surgery. Some women need chemotherapy.

The specialist doctors consider several factors when deciding what type of treatment you need. These factors include;

  • whether you have stage 1A, 1B or 1C ovarian cancer
  • the grade of your cancer  
  • the type of cells the cancer started in
  • your age and whether you want any more children
  • other health conditions you have


Surgery for early ovarian cancer aims to remove your cancer and find out how far it has spread. The specialist surgeon (gynaecologist) usually removes your:

  • ovaries
  • fallopian tubes
  • womb (including the cervix)

During the operation, the gynaecologist examines the inside of your abdomen and your abdominal organs for signs of cancer. You might need further surgery if your cancer has spread.

Having children in the future

For some low grade stage 1a cancers, it might be possible to just remove the affected ovary and fallopian tube, leaving behind the unaffected ovary and your womb. This means you might be able to become pregnant and have a baby afterwards. 


After surgery, your doctor might suggest you have chemotherapy if you have:

  • stage 1c ovarian cancer
  • a high grade (grade 3) cancer

This is called adjuvant chemotherapy and aims to lower the risk of your cancer coming back.

Last reviewed: 
18 Jan 2019
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