Ovarian cancer, one of the rarest and deadliest forms of cancer that occur in women, is divided into four separate stages. These four stages are a way of categorising the extent to which the original tumour has spread and can determine which treatment options are available, as well as the possibility of the individual recovering completely. Stage IV ovarian cancer is the most advanced, and most deadly, of all the ovarian cancer stages.
Ovarian Cancer Stages
The four stages of ovarian cancer are defined by how much the cancer has spread, or metastasised, within the body. In Stage I ovarian cancer, the cancerous cells are still confined exclusively to the affected ovary. In Stage II, the cancer has metastasised from the ovary to tissues within the pelvic area. Stage III ovarian cancer is characterised by the presence of cancerous cells in lymph nodes and throughout the abdominal region. Ovarian cancer that has reached Stage IV has spread outside of the abdomen and into other organs, such as the liver.
Stage IV Life Expectancy
Ovarian cancer that has reached Stage IV is the most deadly form of the condition. While about two-thirds of the women diagnosed with Stage I or Stage II ovarian cancer will eventually be cured and 13 per cent of women diagnosed in Stage III can recover completely, less than five per cent of the women diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer survive for five years after the cancer is discovered.
Stage IV Diagnosis
While most women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at Stage III, diagnosis at Stage IV or any other of the ovarian cancer stages, follows the same basic procedure. A physician will usually identify an enlarged ovary during a routine pelvic exam and recommend an ultrasound and certain blood tests be performed to determine if the mass could be cancerous. If ovarian cancer seems indicated, a procedure known as a laparotomy will be performed. In this procedure, a small incision will be made in the abdomen to allow the doctor access to the ovary.
Surgical Stage IV Treatment
There are two main treatments available for patients with Stage IV ovarian cancer. The first is a surgical procedure, known as cytoreductive surgery, in which as much of the cancer within the ovary and surrounding abdominal tissues is removed. Cytoreductive surgery, however, is seldom able to remove all of the cancer present in Stage IV ovarian cancer.
Stage IV Chemotherapy Treatment
Cytoreductive surgery performed in Stage IV ovarian cancer patients is nearly always followed with aggressive chemotherapy treatment in an attempt to destroy the cancerous cells left in the abdomen following the surgery. The most common chemotherapy drugs administered during this phase of treatment are paclitaxel and a platinum compound such as Platinol or Paraplatin.