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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

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Ovarian Cancer Chemotherapy: Know Your Treatment Options

Chemotherapy Treatment for Ovarian Cancer continued...

The other option is to deliver the chemotherapy directly into the abdominal cavity using a thin tube or catheter. This process is known as intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy. The advantage to IP chemotherapy is that it bathes the cancer cells directly in the cancer-killing drugs.

Doctors will often place the tube for IP chemotherapy during the initial surgery to remove the cancer. The tube is attached to a port, which makes it easy to deliver the drugs into the abdomen each time treatment is given.

Often, women who receive IP chemotherapy get IV chemotherapy too, because studies have shown that the combination significantly improves survival.

In one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, IP plus IV chemotherapy enabled women to live 16 months longer than IV chemotherapy alone. "That's huge," says Matulonis. "That trial has the longest survival that's ever been published in advanced ovarian cancer."

The main drawback to IP chemotherapy is that it also adds an increased risk of side effects (including pain and infection in the catheter). Sometimes these side effects can be severe enough to cause women to stop the treatment and switch to IV chemotherapy alone.

Although the ovarian cancer chemotherapy options are limited, new drugs are being investigated in combination with chemotherapy. One of the most promising drugs is Avastin, an antiangiogenesis inhibitor. Avastin works by stopping new blood vessel growth, essentially cutting off the nutrient supply to the tumor.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Remember that you are also an important participant in your own ovarian cancer treatment. Before your chemotherapy begins, make sure you understand all of your options and the possible outcomes.

You can understand more about your chemotherapy treatment by asking your doctor the following questions:

  • Which type of chemotherapy treatment will give me the best results?
  • Should I get IV or IP chemotherapy? (It's important for your doctor to determine this before your surgery, so that he or she can place the port during the procedure if you're going to have IP chemotherapy.)
  • What kind of chemotherapy drugs will be used? (Although the chemotherapy options are fairly standard for ovarian cancer, there may be some choice involved.)
  • When will my treatment start?
  • How many cycles will I have?
  • How much will my treatment cost?
  • Will my insurance cover the cost of treatment?
  • What risks or side effects can I expect from my treatment?
  • What can I do to prevent or reduce those side effects?
  • When should I contact you about side effects that I may experience?
  • Am I eligible to participate in a clinical trial of new drug regimens?

When you meet with your doctor, be sure to discuss any other health problems you're experiencing. Chemotherapy drugs can sometimes worsen nausea, hearing problems, nerve damage, or other conditions you already have.

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