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:
- 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.
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.
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.
Body image and sexual problems
Your feelings about your body may change after treatment for cancer. Managing body image issues may involve talking about your concerns with your partner and discussing your feelings with your doctor. Your doctor may also be able to refer you to groups that can offer support and information.
Sexual problems can be caused by the physical or emotional effects of cancer or its treatment. Some women may feel less sexual pleasure or lose their desire to be intimate. For more information, see the topic Sexual Problems in Women.
After treatment for ovarian cancer, it's important to receive follow-up care, because ovarian cancer may come back (recur). Your doctor will set up a schedule of checkups and tests.
If the cancer recurs or spreads (metastasizes), it's usually treated with chemotherapy. Surgery may also be done. Or your doctor may recommend that you join a clinical trial for treatment with surgery or immunotherapy.
Palliative care is a kind of care for people who have a serious illness. It's different from care to cure your illness. Its goal is to improve your quality of life-not just in your body but also in your mind and spirit.
You can have this care along with treatment to cure your illness.
Palliative care providers will work to help control pain or side effects. They may help you decide what treatment you want or don't want. And they can help your loved ones understand how to support you.
If you're interested in palliative care, talk to your doctor.
For more information, see the topic Palliative Care.
For some people who have advanced cancer, a time comes when treatment to cure the cancer no longer seems like a good choice. This can be because the side effects, time, and costs of treatment are greater than the promise of cure or relief. But you can still get treatment to make you as comfortable as possible during the time you have left. You and your doctor can decide when you may be ready for hospice care.
For more information, see the topics: