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Ovacome is a national charity providing support to those affected by ovarian cancer. We give information about symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, research and screening. Ovacome also runs a telephone support line and works to raise awareness and give a voice to all those affected by ovarian cancer.

This information is for those who have been diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer and want to know more about their cancer and how it is treated.


Cancer staging

The ovarian cancer stage means how far your cancer has spread at the time it is discovered.  This may be assessed after your diagnostic tests but it is usually confirmed after surgery. 

During your operation to remove the cancer the surgeon may take samples from the cancer and from fluid which are then examined under a microscope.  This usually shows the stage of your cancer.

The system of staging also applies to fallopian tube and peritoneal cancers.


What is stage 1 ovarian cancer?

This is the earliest stage of ovarian cancer and means that your cancer is contained within the ovary or on the surface of the ovary. At this stage the cancer may cause few symptoms and some people are not aware that anything is wrong.  Others may experience abdominal swelling caused by large cysts that are found to contain ovarian cancer. Only a small number of people have their cancer found at this early stage.

Stage 1a means the cancer is contained in one ovary.

Stage 1b means it is contained inside both ovaries.

Stage 1c is when the cancer is limited to one or both ovaries or fallopian tubes, with any of the following:

  • If there is surgical spill, this is stage 1c1.
  • If the sac surrounding the cancer has burst before surgery or there is cancer present on the surface of the ovary or fallopian tube, this is stage 1c2.
  • If cancer cells are found in fluid samples taken during surgery, this is stage 1c3.


Grading stage 1 ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is graded as well as staged.  This shows how active the cancer is and how quickly or slowly it may grow.

Grade 1 (sometimes called well differentiated) cancer means when it is under a microscope the cells look similar to normal cells which means they are likely to grow slowly.

Grade 2 (moderately differentiated) cells look more abnormal and are expected to grow slightly faster.

Grade 3 (poorly differentiated or undifferentiated) cells look very different from normal cells and are expected to grow more quickly.


How is stage 1 ovarian cancer treated?

Stage 1a and 1b are treated with surgery.  Your surgeon will remove your ovaries, fallopian tubes, womb and a layer of tissue called the omentum that surrounds the abdominal organs.  Samples of your lymph nodes may be taken to check the cancer has not spread to them. These are small structures which are part of the lymphatic system which fights infection.  The operation is called a total abdominal hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy and omentectomy.

If your cancer was diagnosed at stage 1a (inside one ovary) and you have not yet had children, it may be possible for just one ovary and one fallopian tube to be removed leaving the healthy ovary.  This could make it possible to keep your fertility and get pregnant.  You will need to discuss this possibility with your consultant.

Your treatment after surgery will depend on the grade of your cancer.  If it is stage 1a or stage 1b with a grade of 1 or 2 it is less likely to spread and you will be treated with surgery only.  If your cancer has been graded at 3 then you will be offered chemotherapy.



Stage 1a3 and 1b3 and all stage 1c ovarian cancer is treated with surgery and chemotherapy.  This is to make sure any cancer cells remaining in your pelvis and abdomen after the operation are eliminated.

Before you start chemotherapy you need to recover from the surgery.  Usually within six weeks of your operation you will start a course of six chemotherapy treatments, given every three weeks.  It is likely that your consultant will recommend carboplatin chemotherapy.

More information on chemotherapy




Not cancer - used to refer to tumours which grow slowly in one place and which, once removed by surgery, tend not to come back.


These are hormones. The levels of these hormones can be measured with a blood test.

CT scan

A CT (computerised tomography) scan uses x-rays to produce images of the body.


Malignant tumours are able to spread to and destroy surrounding tissues and other organs in the body.


A specialist who examines parts of the body affected by disease.


Treating cancer using radiation.


The process for deciding how far the cancer has spread, by using internationally recognised and agreed standards. This can be done using x-rays, scans, blood tests or surgery.


Support for you

Ovacome is the UK 's national ovarian cancer support charity. We've been providing emotional support and personalised, expert information since 1996. Contact our support line by phone, email or text if you have questions about a diagnosis, or if you just want to talk things through.

We support anyone affected by ovarian cancer, including family members, carers, those with an inherited risk, and health professionals working in the field.

We run support group and events, both in person and online, providing an opportunity to connect with others. Find out more about our groups and events here.

Support line


If you would like more information on the sources and references for this page, or if you would like to discuss anything about ovarian cancer, please phone our support line on 0800 008 7054 Monday to Friday between 10am and 5pm.

Booklet text reviewed by Professor Sean Kehoe MD DCH FRCOG. Professor of Gynaecological cancer and lead clinician, Oxford Gynaecological Centre, Churchill Hospital, Oxford; Senior Research Fellow, St Peters College, Oxford; Member of the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (FIGO) Gynaecological cancer committee.

V.2.2. Last updated February 2022, due for review February 2025

Disclaimer: Ovacome provides information and support.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information at the time of printing.  The information we give is not a substitute for professional medical care.  If you suspect you have cancer you should consult your doctor as quickly as possible.  Ovacome cannot accept liability for any inaccuracy in linked sources. Rights reserved.

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