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Ovarian Cancer Treatments, Side Effects and Support

The Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center team of ovarian cancer experts customizes treatment plans to meet the needs of each patient. Your care team will work with you to determine what will work best for you based on the stage of your cancer, overall health and personal preferences. 

Before you begin treatment, talk with us about what to expect, possible side effects and supportive care services. If something is unclear or you have a question, ask. We want you to go into treatment with all the information you need to feel comfortable.

How Is Ovarian Cancer Treated?

Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves surgery and chemotherapy. However, treatment options depend on:

  • Cancer stage
  • Size of tumor
  • Patient’s desire to have children
  • Patient’s age and health

There are always new treatments being researched. Some of the treatment options currently available for ovarian cancer include:

  • Surgery: Surgery is the primary treatment for ovarian cancer and needed to confirm a diagnosis. Additional surgical procedures for ovarian cancer include:
    • Salpingo-oophorectomy: Removal of one or both ovaries and the fallopian tubes
    • Hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus and surrounding tissue
    • Lymphadenectomy/lymph node dissection: Removal of lymph nodes in the pelvis and periaortic areas
    • Omentectomy: Removal of the thin tissue that covers the stomach and intestines
    • Cytoreductive/debulking surgery: Used with metastatic (stage IV) cancer, the goal is to remove as much tumor as is possible by removing affected tissue or parts of organs 
    • Possible side effects: Surgery performed by a gynecologic oncologist is more likely to be successful and have fewer side effects. Short-term, surgery can cause pain, tenderness, difficulty urinating or defecating. If both ovaries are removed, a woman can no longer become pregnant and will go into early menopause
  • Chemotherapy: Most ovarian cancer patients require chemotherapy after surgery to destroy tumor cells. This may be given by mouth or injected a vein or muscle. In some cases, the drugs may be injected directly into the abdominal cavity. Chemotherapy is considered to be a systemic treatment as it reaches almost all parts of the body.  
    • Possible side effects: Fatigue, infection, nausea, vomiting, pain, hair loss, loss of appetite, diarrhea. These side effects usually go away after treatment is finished
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is rarely used to treat ovarian cancer. It may be used as a maintenance therapy to kill any cancer cells remaining or to control symptoms such as pain.
    • Possible side effects: Fatigue, skin reactions, pain, upset stomach, diarrhea. Most side effects go away after treatment is finished
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs or other elements to attack the cancer cells while doing minimal damage to normal cells. 
    • Possible side effects: Nausea, fatigue
  • Clinical trials: Talk to your doctor about research studies and clinical trials underway for ovarian cancer.

Support for Ovarian Cancer

At Banner MD Anderson, we treat more than just cancer. Our patient-centered approach ensures we focus on the medical, physical and emotional aspects of your care. As a patient of Banner MD Anderson, you have access to our Integrative Oncology Program. This program provides much-needed support services to help you manage all aspects of your cancer journey, including support groups for ovarian cancer.   

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