If you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, your doctor will create a treatment plan depending on the type and stage of your ovarian cancer as well as your overall health. Treatment of ovarian cancer usually involves one or more of the following:
Surgery is the main treatment for ovarian cancer. The goal of surgery is to remove the entire cancer or as much of it as possible. Operations to remove ovarian cancer include:
- An ovarian cystectomy: It is a procedure to remove a cyst from an ovary. It removes only the cyst that contains the tumor and leaves the rest of the ovary intact.
- Surgical debulking: It is used to remove as much of the cancer as possible from the abdomen. If your ovarian cancer has spread throughout the abdomen, debulking is an important procedure.
- Salpingo-oophorectomy: It is an ovarian cancer treatment that involves surgically removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes. If you are having one ovary and fallopian tube removed, it is called unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. When both ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed, it is called a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.
- A hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: It is the most common surgery. This operation will remove the uterus, cervix, ovaries and fallopian tubes. You may also have nearby lymph nodes and any other tissues that look abnormal at the time of surgery removed. After a hysterectomy you will no longer have periods or be able to become pregnant.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses medicines to destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing. The medicine enters the bloodstream and reach cancer cells throughout the body.
It may be used to shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove before surgery or to kill any remaining cancer cells after surgery.
Chemotherapy drug is usually given by a drip into a vein, but is sometimes given as tablets. You will need to go to hospital to receive the treatment. How long and how often you receive chemotherapy will depend on the stage of your ovarian cancer and other health factors.
Chemotherapy can cause some unpleasant side effects, such as hair loss, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, and increased risk of infections.
Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. It’s not generally used to treat ovarian cancer, but it may be used to:
- destroy any cancer cells left behind after surgery, or
- shrink tumors and alleviate symptoms if ovarian cancer has spread and cannot be cured.
Common side effects of radiotherapy include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, sore skin in the treated area, and vaginal irritation (if the pelvis is being treated). These side effects will go away after treatment stops.
Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to identify and attack cancer cells without affecting normal cells. Your doctor may test your cancer cells to determine which targeted therapy is most likely to have an effect on your cancer.
There are two targeted therapies for ovarian cancer:
- Niraparib (Zejula)
- Olaparib (Lynparza)
Each type of targeted therapy works differently, but they all change the way a cancer cell works and help to stop cancer from growing and spreading.
They are taken as a capsule or tablet. The side effects of targeted therapies include tiredness, feeling sick, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.
Hormone therapy uses hormones or hormone-blocking medications to fight cancer. This type of treatment is usually used to treat ovarian stromal tumor and is rarely used to treat epithelial ovarian cancer.
Side effects of hormonal therapy will depend on the type of hormonal therapy, the dose of a drug or combination of drugs. Some common side effects of hormonal therapy include any of the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. If they are taken for a long time (years), these drugs can weaken bones, which may lead to osteoporosis.