The treatment for ovarian cancer depends on how far it has spread, your general health and whether you're still able to have children.
Most people have a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
The aim of treatment is to cure the cancer, if possible. If the cancer is too advanced to be cured, treatment aims to relieve symptoms and control the cancer for as long as possible.
You'll be cared for by a team of healthcare professionals who will create a treatment plan and support you throughout your treatment.
Know what to Expect
After your ovarian cancer diagnosis, you may receive information from every direction and you may have lots of questions: what does all this mean? What will happen to me? How will I cope? How can I tell my family and friends?
Here we'll help you answer some of these questions by taking you through the practicalities, treatment options and exploring how you might feel.
Surgery is the main treatment for ovarian cancer. The aim is to remove all of the cancer, or as much of it as possible.
Surgery usually involves removing:
both ovaries and the fallopian tubes
the womb (a hysterectomy)
a layer of fatty tissue in the tummy (the omentum)
If the cancer is just in 1 or both ovaries, you may only need to have the ovary or ovaries removed, leaving your womb intact. This means you may still be able to have children. Surgery is done under general anaesthetic (where you're asleep). You'll probably need to stay in hospital for a few days, but it may take many weeks to fully recover.
Chemotherapy is where medicine is used to kill cancer cells. Most women with ovarian cancer have chemotherapy in addition to surgery.
It may be used:
- after surgery, to kill any remaining cancer cells
before surgery, to shrink the cancer and make it easier to remove
if ovarian cancer comes back after initial treatment
Chemotherapy medicine is usually given by a drip into a vein; but is sometimes given as tablets. You'll need to go into hospital to receive the treatment, but you can usually go home the same day. Treatment is given in cycles, with a period of treatment followed by a period of rest to allow your body to recover. Most people have 6 cycles of chemotherapy, with each cycle lasting 3 weeks.
Radiation Therapy (radiotherapy)
Radiotherapy uses carefully directed beams of radiation to kill cancer cells. It's not used very often to treat ovarian cancer, but may be used:
after surgery for early ovarian cancer, to kill any cancer cells left behind
to shrink tumours and reduce symptoms if ovarian cancer has spread and cannot be cured
Targeted therapies are medicines that change the way cells work and help to stop cancer from growing and spreading. Not all types of ovarian cancer can be treated with targeted therapies.
There are 2 targeted therapies for ovarian cancer:
- olaparib (Lynparza)
These medicines are only suitable for some types of ovarian cancer and may be given if cancer comes back after a course of chemotherapy. They are taken as a tablet or capsule.
Anyone who has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer - regardless of age, gender, treatment, diagnosis or prognosis - is a Thriver to The Robin Cancer Trust; a Thriver is about being part of a community that ‘gets it’ and our specially curated Thriver Packs are here to help make your cancer journey more comfortable.