How Common Is Ovarian Cancer?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2021

Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer in the United States. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that about 21,700 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020. The ACS also estimates that about 13,900 women will die from the disease in 2020.1,2

Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other gynecologic cancer. It ranks 5th in cancer deaths in women. The lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer for a woman living in the United States is about 1 in 78. The lifetime risk of dying from ovarian cancer is about 1 in 108.2

Advanced ovarian cancer is a term that is generally used to describe ovarian cancer that has spread within or beyond the pelvic region, or has come back and spread to other parts of the body. Stage II ovarian cancer is defined as cancer that has spread within the pelvis. Stages III and IV are defined as cancer that has spread beyond the pelvis.3

Of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, about 85 percent are diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer (stages II, III, or IV).4

Who gets ovarian cancer?

It is hard to determine exactly how many women are diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer each year. Researchers do know that about half of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are 63 years old or older.2

The most recent data for ovarian cancer diagnoses is from 2017. The data broken down by race/ethnicity shows:5

  • 10.4 new diagnoses per 100,000 white women
  • 8.1 new diagnoses per 100,000 Black women
  • 7.4 new diagnoses per 100,000 American Indian/Alaska native women
  • 8.2 new diagnoses per 100,000 Asian/Pacific Islander women
  • 9.6 new diagnoses per 100,000 Hispanic women

There are racial and ethnic differences in the rates of ovarian cancer. The exact causes of these differences are mostly unknown. More studies need to be done to better understand these differences.6

What are the survival statistics for ovarian cancer?

Survival rates can depend on a variety of factors. This includes your overall health, response to treatment, stage of disease, and more. The stage of the cancer can give you a general idea of 5-year survival rates. It is important to keep in mind that statistics are a general figure. They do not reflect your unique situation and what you may experience.

The 5-year survival rate estimates how many people will be alive 5 years after they were diagnosed with or started treatment for a disease. Nearly half (46.2 percent) of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are alive at least 5 years after diagnosis.

By stage, the relative 5-year survival rates are:7

  • Stage I (overall), 90 percent
  • Stage IA, 94 percent
    Stage IB, 92 percent
    Stage IC, 85 percent

  • Stage II (overall), 70 percent
  • Stage IIA, 78 percent
    Stage IIB, 73 percent
    Stage IIC, 57 percent

  • Stage III (overall), 39 percent
  • Stage IIIA, 59 percent
    Stage IIIB, 52 percent
    Stage IIIC, 39 percent

  • Stage IV, 17 percent

Things to consider

Statistics and demographics can only tell us so much. They are only a guideline – each person and their experiences are very different. This data simply provides a broader look at the disease. More research needs to be done about racial and ethnic differences in ovarian cancer and how they impact diagnosis, treatment, and survival.

Talk with your doctor about your specific experience. Statistics and numbers are just one part of the puzzle. Your doctor knows your medical history and the specifics of your diagnosis. They can give you helpful information about your unique treatment and prognosis.

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