Which Way Does Ovarian Cancer Tend to Spread or Metastasize?

Which Way Does Ovarian Cancer Tend to Spread or Metastasize

Usually, the fallopian tubes are where ovarian cancer begins. It may extend past the walls of the pelvis or throughout the pelvis. Before spreading further across the body, lymph nodes, the liver, and finally, the lungs are frequently affected by metastatic ovarian cancer.

The proliferation of malignant cells in the ovaries is the hallmark of ovarian cancer, which has no consistent course.

Rather, the course is determined by several variables, according to Nana Tchabo, MD, a gynecologic oncologist at Atlantic Health System in Morristown, New Jersey.

Among them are the following:
  • cancer-causing cells or a mutation in the cells
  • duration of the main cancer's presence in the body
  • type of treatment being obtained or currently being administered
  • your age and overall health
  • speed of the cancer growth

Where does ovarian cancer typically spread?

Usually, the fallopian tubes are where ovarian cancer begins. It may extend past the walls of the pelvis or throughout the pelvis.

"A mutation in the epithelial cells is typically the cause of the cancer," says Michelle Forcier, MD, a gender-affirming physician with the virtual healthcare provider FOLX. We call this type of ovarian cancer epithelial.

According to their claims, epithelial cells line the fallopian tubes, cover the peritoneal membrane that encloses the organs in the belly and pelvis, and cover the surface of the ovaries.

Locally progressed ovarian cancer is the term used to describe cancer that has spread within the pelvis, including to the lower abdomen and peritoneal cavity.

According to Forcier, cancer can spread to more distant sections of the body in the absence of a diagnosis and therapy. Metastatic ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that has spread beyond the pelvic region.

Before spreading further across the body, lymph nodes, the liver, and finally, the lungs are frequently affected by metastatic ovarian cancer.

How does ovarian cancer typically spread?

When ovarian cancer is misdiagnosed, left untreated, or treated ineffectively, three basic spreading patterns are commonly seen.

Hematogenous and lymphatic spread are secondary pathways to intracavity spread, which is the primary mode of dissemination.

Intracavity spread

Ovarian cancer can occasionally begin by spreading to various surfaces within the pelvis, not just the ovaries. We call this intracavity spread.

Malignancy may now spread to the:
  • The area between the abdomen and the pelvis is known as the peritoneal cavity.
  • area beneath the surface of the diaphragm
  • The tissue covering the abdominal organs is called the omentum.
  • the liver, appendix, or bowel walls

Lymphatic spread

Every lymph node in the body is connected by a system of lymph veins. Thus, when malignant cells impact a single lymph node, they have the potential to spread to adjacent lymph nodes as well as widely connected lymphatic pathways.


This form, sometimes referred to as bloodstream spread occurs when ovarian cancer cells go into the bloodstream and circulatory system.

How quickly does ovarian cancer typically spread?

The specific case's pattern of cancer spread determines how quickly the disease spreads. Blood is a more rapid medium for the spread of cancer than the lymphatic system. Generally speaking, intracavity spread is the slowest.

It takes around 6 1/2 years for ovarian cancer that starts in the fallopian tubes to move to the ovaries. Cancer may spread to other body parts far more quickly if it gets to the ovaries.

According to some studies, it can take up to two years for ovarian cancer to move to the belly and peritoneum. This is an average, not a guarantee, though.

According to Tchabo, "ovarian cancer can progress from an early stage to an advanced stage in certain patients in less than a year."

Moreover, she notes that malignant epithelial carcinoma, one of the most prevalent forms of ovarian cancer, can spread in a matter of weeks to months.

How is staging used to describe the spread of ovarian cancer?

A staging system is used by medical experts to indicate the extent of malignant tumours and their size in the body.

Four phases of ovarian cancer are commonly acknowledged:
  • Stage 1: Initially, one or both ovaries or the fallopian tubes are affected by the cancerous spread.
  • Stage 2: Second, additional pelvic organs like the uterus, bladder, and rectum are affected by the cancer's metastasis.
  • Stage 3: Third, the omentum, abdominal lining, or lymph nodes are affected by the cancer's spread.
  • Stage 4: The cancer finally spreads to distant organs like the liver or lungs in the fourth stage.
Substages may be created by experts from these classifications.

What symptoms are possible with advancing ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer presents several difficulties, including ambiguous indications and symptoms, according to Sanaz Memarzadeh, MD, a gynecologic oncologist with UCLA Health in Los Angeles.

According to her, some patients have no trouble attributing specific symptoms to other illnesses, such as menstruation or menopause.

According to a 2020 study, many patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer describe experiencing symptoms that, while initially puzzling, become understandable after receiving the diagnosis.

This implies that people may frequently be oblivious to the signs that they should be on the lookout for or report to a medical professional.

According to Memarzadeh, ovarian cancer is frequently associated with the following symptoms:
  • abdominal pain or pelvic pain
  • bloating or distention (swelling of the abdomen)
  • alterations in bladder or bowel function
  • early satiety (notching fullness more quickly than usual)
  • loss of appetite
  • unintentional weight loss
Unusual changes in vaginal discharge and unexpected vaginal bleeding can also be signs of ovarian cancer, especially in postmenopausal women.

Memarzadeh advises seeing a doctor if you have any of these symptoms so that you can have a gynecologic assessment and any other recommended testing done.


Does ovarian cancer metastasize quickly?

Within a year, ovarian cancer can go from its early stages to an advanced stage due to its rapid growth. Malignant epithelial carcinoma, the most frequent type, is characterised by rapidly proliferating cancer cells that can spread over weeks or months.

Can ovarian cancer develop in 6 months?

Over time, ovarian cancers grow and evolve at different rates. While certain forms of ovarian cancer can advance very swiftly within months, others may grow slowly over years.

Can you be cancer-free after ovarian cancer?

(The term "recurrence" refers to the return of cancer.) If you have experienced cancer, this is highly typical. For other individuals, ovarian cancer never fully disappears. Chemotherapy may be administered intermittently for years to certain women.

The bottom line

In the US, ovarian cancer ranks as the second most frequent gynecologic malignancy. The American Cancer Society does point out that over the last few decades, fewer diagnoses have been made.

Since there isn't an effective screening method for ovarian cancer at the moment, it's critical to recognise the signs. Timely diagnosis and treatment can minimise the likelihood of long-term problems and enhance the overall prognosis.

If you're worried about anything, including your risk or symptoms, schedule a visit with a healthcare provider.

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