A Guide to Ovarian Cancer Life Expectancy

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Worldwide Incidence

  • Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common female cancer and the second most common gynaecological cancer. It makes up 4% of all female cancers and accounts for 4.2% of cancer deaths in women.
  • Recent statistics show the number of new cases globally is around 204,000, with approximately 125,000 deaths worldwide per year.
  • The most common type is epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Less common types are germ cell tumours and sex cord-stromal tumours.
  • The vast majority of epithelial ovarian cancers are diagnosed in post-menopausal women.
  • Over half of cases worldwide are in developed countries. The incidence in South America is relatively high compared to most of Asia and Africa.

Ovarian Cancer Life Expectancy

Ovarian cancer has a high mortality rate in relation to new cases, reflecting a generally poor prognosis (outlook) compared to other gynaecological cancers such as uterine and cervical.

The five year survival rate varies slightly worldwide, but is generally less than 50%. Some of the most recent ovarian cancer statistics are from Scotland. These show that 4 out of 10 scottish women are alive five years after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

The Stage of Disease

As with many cancers, the outcome depends on the stage of the cancer when it is diagnosed i.e. whether it is early or advanced disease. Other factors which can effect ovarian cancer life expectancy are:

  • Age - younger women with EOC tend to live longer after diagnosis.
  • Surgical outcome - if all the tumour can be removed surgically this is beneficial.
  • Overall health - this may have implications for how well a patient is able to tolerate treatment.

However, stage of disease at diagnosis remains the most important factor in predicting ovarian cancer 5 year survival:

  • Early stage ovarian cancer: 3 out of 4 women will live for 5 years or more.
  • Ovarian cancer which has spread into surrounding tissues: approximately 1 in 3 women will live for 5 years or more.
  • Ovarian cancer which has spread into lymph nodes close to the tumour: about 1 in 4 women will live for 5 years or more.
  • Metastatic ovarian cancer (has spread to other parts of the body): about 1 in 6 women will live for 5 years or more.

It is important to stress that these are general figures. No statistics can accurately predict what will happen to an individual, since each patient with ovarian cancer is a unique case. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people and the statistics are not detailed enough to take account of the different treatments patients are given.


Worldwide burden of gynaecological cancer: the size of the problem by R.Sankaranarayanan & J. Ferlay. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2006, Vol 20, P207-25.

Cancer Research UK www.cancerhelp.org.uk