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Ovarian cancer treatment

Treatment of ovarian cancer should be under the direction of an experienced gynaecological oncologist (a specialist in women's cancers).

Surgery is the usual first treatment for ovarian cancer. Whenever possible, the surgery takes place at the time of exploratory laparotomy. The operation is paused while the pathologist rapidly reviews the biopsy tissues. The pathologist's report determines the structures affected by cancer and if they should be removed. This spares the woman from undergoing further surgery at a later time.

Tests are also carried out to assess the stage of the cancer or how much it has grown or spread.

  • For stage 1 tumours, only the involved ovary and fallopian tube may be removed for women who wish to become pregnant in the future. For women who do not wish to become pregnant, both ovaries, both fallopian tubes and the uterus are removed. Usually this procedure removes the lymph nodes surrounding these organs and the omentum. If the tumour cell type is of particular concern, chemotherapy is usually given as well.
  • Stage 2 cancer treatment involves removal of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, resection (partial removal) of any tumour in the pelvic area and resection of any other structures affected with cancer. Chemotherapy is strongly recommended.
  • Stage 3 treatment is identical to stage 2 treatment, except more aggressive chemotherapy and possibly experimental treatments are given. Some women may be candidates for direct abdominal treatment. This type of treatment is referred to as peritoneal therapy. This type of therapy is more difficult to receive but may improve survival.
  • Stage 4 treatment involves extensive debulking and multi-agent chemotherapy.

After chemotherapy is completed, the woman may undergo a second operation. Her surgeon will examine her remaining pelvic and abdominal structures for evidence of residual cancer. Samples of fluid and tissues may be taken to check for residual cancer cells.

Next steps/follow-up

The success of the cancer treatment depends on the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed.

Just over 70% of women treated for ovarian cancer will live for at least a year after the diagnosis. 35% will live for at least 10 years being diagnosed.

Routine check-up appointments will be arranged after ovarian cancer treatment, These are often every two to three months and will usually include a physical examination, but may also include blood tests, X-rays, a CT scan or ultrasound scan.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 24, 2017

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