Download booklet

Order printed booklet


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 fact sheet is for those who have been diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer and want more information 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.


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 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.

If you would like more information on the sources and references for this fact sheet, please call us on our support line 0800 0087 054.

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.

You can also visit our website at www.ovacome.org.uk


Written by Professor Sean Kehoe, Lawson Tait Professor of Gynaecological Cancer, University of Birmingham.



Ovacome fact sheets provide 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.


Date June 2019

Date for review June 2021


Did you find this fact sheet helpful? We welcome your feedback. If you have any comments or suggestions, please email [email protected] or call 0207 299 6653.