Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Treatment may also include a clinical trial. The type of treatment a woman receives depends on the type and stage of her ovarian cancer. Not all women receive the same treatment.
Treatment is best managed by a gynecological oncologist who specializes in treating cancers of the reproductive tract and has very specialized surgical skills. Chemotherapy may also be managed by a medical oncologist.
The staging of ovarian cancer is divided into four stages. Decisions about treatment vary based on the stage.
Stage 1 - Ovarian cancer is confined to one or both ovaries
Stage 2 - Cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread to other parts of the pelvis
Stage 3 - Cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other abdominal organs, excluding the liver
Stage 4 - Cancer is in one or both ovaries and has spread to the liver or sites outside the abdomen
The goal of surgery is to optimally remove as much of the malignant process as possible. Unless the disease is confined to the ovary, surgery usually involves removing both ovaries, the uterus, fallopian tubes and the omentum.
Surgery is typically followed by chemotherapy. During and after chemotherapy, doctors monitor a woman’s progress with pelvic exams and with the CA-125 blood test. While the CA-125 blood test is not a reliable screening tool, it does reliably indicate whether the disease is recurring in women who have already been treated.
In certain circumstances, your physician may recommend chemotherapy before surgery.
Biological therapies are a newer type of cancer treatment. They work by changing the way the cells in our body work.
Biological therapies used to treat ovarian cancer include bevacizumab (Avastin®) and Parp Inhibitors. They can be used upfront as a treatment option or in the maintenance setting.
Genetic testing results can have an impact on the treatment plan. It is recommended that ALL women have genetic testing done at the time of diagnosis.