Treatments

Ovarian Cancer Specific - MORE INFORMATION COMING SOON! 

The treatment of ovarian cancer depends on the size and location of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread, the woman's overall health, and personal considerations, such as the woman's age and if she is planning to have children. These days it’s common for a team of doctors to work with the woman to decide on the best treatment plan for her.

Treatment usually involves surgery and chemotherapy. Radiotherapy is not commonly used for ovarian cancer treatment.

A woman with ovarian cancer should see a Gynaecological Oncologist (a doctor specializing in the treatment of cancers of the female reproductive system). Research shows that women treated by a Gynaecological Oncologist as part of their team of doctors, have more successful outcomes.

Surgery

Surgery usually involves the removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes and a hysterectomy is also performed. The surgeon may also remove the omentum,(the thin tissue covering the stomach) and large intestine, and appendix. Any lymph glands in the surrounding area could also be removed, as well as fluid from the abdomen. Examination of these and the tumour itself, by the laboratory will help show whether the cancer has spread, and what type of ovarian cancer is present. This is called giving the cancer a ‘stage and grade’. This helps the Oncology team decide on the most effective treatment for the type of cancer the woman has.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells. Often the goal is to destroy cancer cells left after the tumour has been surgically removed. It can also be used to slow down the growth of the cancer, to reduce side effects from the cancer itself, and to shrink some cancers before they are surgically removed.

Although chemotherapy can be given orally (by mouth), most drugs used to treat ovarian cancer are given intravenously (IV), - injected directly in to the bloodstream through the vein via a drip. A course of chemotherapy, is made up of ‘cycles’, most often six cycles, with each cycle given every three or four weeks. A course of chemotherapy therefore will last several months. Research is currently looking at giving chemotherapy intraperitoneally (IP), i.e. directly into the peritoneum, or pelvic area.

The side effects of chemotherapy vary, and also depend on the patient and the dose used. Side effects may include fatigue, risk of infection, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, loss of hair, and diarrhea. These side effects usually go away once treatment is finished.

The CA125 blood test is often used to measure how well the cancer has responded to the chemotherapy. If your cancer has not responded as well as hoped, you may need further chemotherapy. If your cancer returns in the future you may also need further chemotherapy. Your doctor will discuss with you which drugs to use and why.

Radiation therapy

Radiation treatment is not usually used to treat ovarian cancer. However it may occasionally be used to relieve symptoms by specifically aiming at and killing cancer cells in the area of the body causing symptoms.