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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

Chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer: Help Your Doctor Understand Your Preferences

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Getting diagnosed with ovarian cancer is scary, but it is a treatable disease. However, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to ovarian cancer treatment. Talk to your oncologist to determine what will work best for you.

Because there is a lot of information to absorb, it may be overwhelming in the beginning. Write down your questions before your appointment (see our printable checklist) and ask the most pressing questions first so that you don't run out of time during your preliminary visit.

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Recurrent or Persistent Ovarian Epithelial Cancer Treatment

Overall, approximately 80% of patients diagnosed with ovarian epithelial cancer will relapse after first-line platinum-based and taxane-based chemotherapy and may benefit from subsequent therapies. Early detection of persistent disease by second-look laparotomies after completing first-line treatment is no longer practiced; when the outcomes in the 50% of institutions practicing such procedures were informally compared with the outcomes in those institutions not using such procedures, additional...

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Covering the Basics of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill cancer cells, is usually recommended after surgery to treat most stages of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is typically responsive to chemotherapy. 

There are different ways to administer chemotherapy, such as by mouth or injections into the muscle. Chemotherapy for ovarian cancer is usually given intravenously (IV) -- into a vein -- or medications are injected through a catheter or port into your abdomen, called intraperitoneal chemotherapy (IP). 

Ask your doctor whether you are a candidate for IP. Research shows that women who received both IV and IP chemotherapy are disease-free longer than women who received only IV chemotherapy (and have a higher survival rate), but they also experienced more severe side effects such as fatigue, pain, and low blood counts.

A central line, also called central venous catheter (CVC), may be administered prior to chemotherapy treatment. A CVC is a hollow tube that is placed in a large vein, and it can stay in the body for a much longer period of time. CVCs allow an easier route for IV medicines and require different levels of care. The type of CVC used is based on how long you will be getting treatment, how long it takes to infuse each dose of chemotherapy, your preferences, your doctor's preferences, the care required to maintain the CVC, and its cost. Talk to your doctor about the type of central line that he or she recommends for you.

Discussing Your Treatment Plan

You will likely receive a combination of chemotherapy drugs. Most oncologists in the U.S. consider combination chemotherapy more effective than a single drug in treating ovarian cancer.

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