Treatments for ovarian cancer
If you have ovarian cancer, your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your health and specific information about the cancer. When deciding which treatments to offer for ovarian cancer, your healthcare team will consider:
- type of tumour
- whether you want to get pregnant in the future
You may be offered one or more of the following treatments for ovarian cancer.
Surgery is the main treatment for all stages and types of ovarian cancer.
A total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is the most common surgery. This operation removes the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. You may also have nearby lymph nodes, omentum and any other tissues that look abnormal at the time of surgery removed.
A salpingo-oophorectomy may be unilateral (removing the ovary and fallopian tube on one side only) or bilateral (removing both ovaries and fallopian tubes).
Surgical debulking removes as much of the cancer as possible from the abdomen.
A cystectomy removes only the cyst that contains the tumour and leaves the rest of the ovary intact.
Some surgical procedures may be done to relieve symptoms of late-stage ovarian cancer.
Chemotherapy is offered before or after surgery to treat some types and stages of ovarian cancer.
Chemotherapy can also be given to relieve pain or to control the symptoms of ovarian cancer (called palliative chemotherapy).
Some women with low-grade ovarian cancer may receive hormonal therapy instead of chemotherapy after surgery.
Some women with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer or primary peritoneal carcinoma can be treated with targeted therapy, with or without chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy is not commonly used to treat ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer often involves many organs in the abdomen and radiation therapy needs to be aimed at a small area. It may be used after surgery if chemotherapy can’t be used because of older age or health problems. It may be used to treat small areas of cancer that have come back or spread and to control symptoms of advanced ovarian cancer.
If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment
You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better without treating the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don’t work anymore, they’re not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment.
Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.
Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. You will need to have regular follow-up visits, especially in the first 5 years after treatment has finished. These visits allow your healthcare team to monitor your progress and recovery from treatment.
Some clinical trials in Canada are open to women with ovarian cancer. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.
Questions to ask about treatment
To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about treatment.
Seeing my sister Erin – a young mother – struggle with the emotional blow and then the physical toll of cancer treatment made me want to do something to help women feel confident.
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