What is the treatment for ovarian cancer?

Once the diagnosis and staging for ovarian cancer is over, the next step is the treatment. Based on the stage of cancer treatment is decided. While choosing treatment it is also important to weigh in the risks and possible side effects that come along so it is important to discuss with your doctor and medical team before coming to a conclusion. Listed below are the possible treatments that are given for ovarian cancer, these treatments are also categorized into local treatments, systematic treatment and, palliative treatments.

Local treatments

Local treatments mean that they are the kind of treatments that treat tumors without affecting the rest of the body. The types of local treatments used for ovarian cancer are surgery and radiation therapy.


Surgery is known as one of the main treatments for ovarian cancer. The extent of surgery depends on the cancer stage, age and fertility preservation. The treatment method of surgery has 3 main categories, initial surgery, second look surgery and debulking.

  • Initial surgery

This process is done by laparotomy, which is a vertical incision in the abdomen that is large enough to allow the surgeon to look at the cancerous tissue inside the body. This also leads to the removal of the uterus which is medical procedure known as a hysterectomy. The removal of the uterus, the ovaries and fallopian tube is removed and is known as bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy or BSO. Another procedure known as an omentectomy is also done which is the removal of the omentum, as ovarian cancer spreads to this area as well.

If a fluid is found in the pelvic or abdominal cavity, the doctor will extract the fluid, send it for laboratory tests to check for cancer cells and wash the area with normal saline water.

The main goal of this surgery is to determine how far the cancer had spread, obtain an accurate surgical diagnosis and to also obtain a part of the cancerous tumor and send for examination under a microscope.

  • Second look surgery

This is also known as a follow-up surgery and is done for women whose cancer responds to chemotherapy which includes the procedures of laparotomy and laparoscopy. These surgeries are done using fiberoptic and tubes. these surgeries are less invasive and they are usually done to determine if any cancer is remaining in the abdominal cavity.

  • Debulking

Debulking is known as the procedure that involves the removal of as much of the cancerous tumor as possible. This procedure is very important when the cancer has spread throughout the abdomen at the time of the surgery. The main goal of the debulking procedure is to leave behind no visible cancer or no tumors larger than 1 cm. The procedure is also done to ensure that there is no recurrent cancer and to also ensure the removal of the cancer symptoms.

Radiation therapy for ovarian cancer

Radiation therapy uses high energy X-ray or particles to kill cancer cells. It is useful in treating areas near the tumor or in distant areas that are away from the tumor. However, this method is very rarely used for ovarian cancer.

Systemic treatments

Systemic treatment uses drugs that can reach cancer cells anywhere in the body. They can be orally ingested or can be injected into the patient’s bloodstream. Depending on the kind and stage of ovarian cancer, different treatments can be given.

Chemotherapy for ovarian cancer

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs for the treatment of cancer. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment in which the drug slowly given to patients bloodstream and reaches all the areas of the body. The treatment of chemotherapy is given to patients to kill the cancer cells before or after surgery based on the stage and type of cancer.

Chemotherapy before surgery is given in cases where the cancer has metastasized or to shrink very large tumors. Sometimes , chemotherapy can be given through a tube that is connected directly to the abdomen and this procedure is called intraperitoneal chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy after surgery is usually given to decrease the risk of recurrence by killing the microscopic cancer invasion and increasing the survival of the patient.

Chemotherapy for ovarian cancer usually involves the use of two different drugs together. As getting a combination of drugs has been seen to work better in the first treatment of ovarian cancer. The combination includes a drug that has a platinum compound and another type of chemo drug called taxane. These drugs are usually given through the vein every three to four weeks.

Intraperitoneal chemotherapy

In this procedure, chemotherapy is given through a tube that is connected directly to the abdomen. The tube is placed usually during staging or debulking surgery but sometimes it is placed later. In this process a catheter which is connected to a port is placed under the skin against a bony structure of the abdominal wall. A needle can be placed through the skin and into the port and chemo drugs are administered.

Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy is the kind of systemic treatment that included the use of hormones or hormone-blocking drugs to fight cancer.

Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonists

These agonists switch off hormone production by the ovaries and is used to lower estrogen levels in premenopausal women. These drugs are injected every 1 to 3 months and cause menopausal symptoms.

Aromatase inhibitors

Aromatase inhibitors are drugs that block the enzyme, aromatase that converts other hormone into estrogen in postmenopausal women. They don’t stop the ovaries from producing estrogen but lower the levels of estrogen in women. These drugs are commonly used in the treatment of breast cancer but it is also seen to be effective in ovarian stromal tumors.

Palliative treatments

Palliative treatments in ovarian cancer are used to relieve the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Women with ovarian cancer have abdominal fluid that collects and causes discomfort but this condition can be treated through a process called paracentesis. In this procedure, the skin is numbed and a needle is used to draw out the fluid. There is also an option of injecting chemo into the abdomen to slow down the fluid build up. These treatments cause relief to some women with these symptoms and may also help them live longer.

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