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Treatment Overview

Types of treatment

The choice of treatment and the long-term outcome (prognosis) for women who have ovarian cancer depends on the type and stage of cancer. Your age, overall health, quality of life, and desire to have children must also be considered.

The main treatment choices are:

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  • Surgery to find out if you have cancer and to treat it. This may include taking biopsies to check for the spread of cancer.
  • Chemotherapy, which uses medicines to kill cancer cells. It is recommended after surgery for most stages of ovarian cancer.

Women with more advanced ovarian cancer may have part of their chemotherapy before surgery and the rest of it after surgery. This can make the surgery safer for these women.

Radiation therapy may be used to destroy cancer cells using high-dose X-rays or other high-energy rays. For more information, see Other Treatment.

Additional information about ovarian cancer is provided by the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/ovarian.

Side effects of treatment

Most treatments for ovarian cancer cause side effects. They may differ, depending on the type of treatment and your age and overall health.

  • Side effects of surgery depend on the extent of your surgery. If the doctor removes your ovaries, you will no longer be able to bear children. And if you were still menstruating before your surgery, you will start menopause.
  • Side effects of chemotherapy may include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and hair loss. There is also an increased chance of getting a serious infection.

Radiation treatment also can cause side effects. For more information, see Other Treatment.

Home treatment may help you manage the side effects.

Advanced-stage ovarian cancer

Surgery in advanced-stage ovarian cancer involves removing as much of the cancer as possible. The uterus, the tissue lining the abdominal wall (omentum), and any areas of visible cancer are removed. This may include surgery on the intestines, urinary system, or spleen, or scraping of the diaphragm to remove all the cancer. The long-term outcome is better if no cancer cells remain.

Clinical trials

Your doctor may talk to you about being in a clinical trial of a treatment such as immunotherapy or targeted therapy.

Coping with emotions

When you first find out that you have cancer, you may feel scared or angry. Or you may feel very calm. It's normal to have a wide range of feelings and for those feelings to change quickly. Some people find that it helps to talk about their feelings with family and friends.

If your emotional reaction to cancer gets in the way of your ability to make decisions about your health, it's important to talk with your doctor. Your cancer treatment center may offer psychological or financial services. And a local chapter of the American Cancer Society can help you find a support group.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 22, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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