Reflections on the FIGO surgical staging of invasive epithelial ovarian cancer

Eur J Gynaecol Oncol. 2003;24(3-4):215-22.


The main aims and requirements of any staging system are: to determine the anatomical extent of disease, to allow uniform reporting of treatment results, comparison of their efficacy and pooling of data from various institutions. It should be based on the mode of spread of the neoplasm, take into consideration prognostic risk factors and be of prognostic value. A critical review of the FIGO staging system for ovarian carcinoma indicates that these aims and requirements are not entirely fulfilled. Following are some examples. It does not include exact recommendations for comprehensive surgical staging in apparently early ovarian cancer and staging is therefore not performed uniformly. The presence of parenchymal liver and lung metastasis may be facilitated by modern imaging devices. However, according to FIGO rules only simple X-ray procedures are allowed preoperatively. The correlation between increasing stage and survival is inconsistent and sometimes contrary to that expected. Many known prognostic factors are not included in the present staging system. Although the aims of data pooling and of uniform reporting of treatment results have been achieved, the validity of some comparisons are questionable in view of the variations in staging. The intent of this review was not to belittle the major contribution of staging to research, understanding and management of ovarian carcinoma, but to highlight its deficiencies. New data have accumulated since the FIGO staging system of ovarian carcinoma has been adopted and should prompt consideration of modifications such as incorporation of modern diagnostic procedures and of some established prognostic markers and reshuffling of certain substages.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy / methods
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / surgery
  • Sensitivity and Specificity