When you've been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, your doctor will work with you to decide what treatment is right for you. Often, you’ll have several of treatments at the same time. Here's a look at the main ones:
Surgery. This is usually the first step. It's done to take out a piece of the mass to see if it's cancer. Doctors call this a biopsy. Surgery helps "stage" the cancer to see how far it has spread. Once cancer is confirmed, your surgeon will take out as much of the tumor as possible.
How much surgery you have depends on how far the cancer has spread. In some cases, the ovaries, uterus, cervix, or fallopian tubes may need to be removed. Other tissue typically removed includes lymph nodes, the omentum (fatty apron covering the intestines) and all visible cancer. If your surgery is in the very early stages or you want to have children, your doctor may not remove all your reproductive organs.
Chemotherapy (“chemo”). You may need chemo to get rid of any cancer cells that are still in your body after surgery. You usually receive these powerful medications through an IV. But sometimes they work better for ovarian cancer if they’re injected into your abdomen. This lets the medicine come into direct contact with the part of your body where the cancer was and is most likely to spread.
Radiation. These high-energy X-rays can help kill any cancer cells that are left over in the pelvic area. Radiation is given to you just like a regular X-ray. It can be used if cancer has come back after treatment or to help control symptoms like pain.
Targeted Therapy. These treatments use newer medications that find and attack cancer cells while doing little damage to surrounding normal cells. These meds all work in different ways, but they’re able to stop cancer cells from growing, dividing, or fixing themselves. The medications are either taken by mouth or given by IV.
Hormone Therapy. In some cases, your doctor might suggest using hormones or hormone-blocking medications. According to the American Cancer Society, this therapy is most often used to treat ovarian stromal tumors, not epithelial ovarian cancer.
Clinical Trials. Doctors are always conducting studies to take a closer look at new treatments and procedures. By taking part in these trials, you can get access to current state-of-the-art treatments. But they may not be right for everyone. Ask your doctor how you can find out more and if a clinical trial might be right for you.