Many cancer treatments can trigger problems. If you’re undergoing ovarian cancer treatment, be aware of the possible complications you could face and how to handle them.
The Most Common Complications
While everyone will respond to treatment differently, here are some of the most common complications:
Chemotherapy seeks out and destroys the rapidly dividing cancer cells in your body. Unfortunately, the treatment sometimes ends up destroying healthy cells too. One type of healthy blood cell that’s often damaged is the one responsible for creating white blood cells. White blood cells fight invading bacteria and germs. Your risk for infection increases dramatically when you have a lower white blood cell count.
Bleeding and Bruising
Advanced ovarian cancer treatments may damage your platelets. Platelets are cells that help stop bleeding. Without enough platelets, you may experience prolonged bleeding and develop larger and more frequent bruises.
Loss of Fertility and Menopause.
Some women will need to have portions of their reproductive system removed in order to treat the cancer. If your surgeon removes both of your ovaries and/or your uterus, you won’t be able to become pregnant. Also, if your ovaries are removed, you will enter menopause if you haven’t previously gone through it.
Though rare, chemotherapy may damage your bone marrow. This could eventually lead to myeloid leukemia.
Cisplatin (Platinol), a type of chemotherapy drug, has been shown to cause permanent kidney damage. Your doctor can administer IV fluids both before and after chemotherapy treatment to help prevent this damage.
Cisplatin, paclitaxel (Taxol), and docetaxel (Taxotere), which are chemotherapy drugs, have been shown to cause nerve damage or neuropathy. As the problem worsens, you may experience numbness, tingling, and pain in your extremities.
Cisplatin can also damage the nerves that lead to your ear. This can impact your hearing or cause ototoxicity.
You run the risk of developing a hernia after cancer surgery. A hernia occurs when a hole or weak point in your muscular wall develops. This hole allows organs and tissue to push through the opening. As a result, you will develop a bulge, or hernia, at the point of the opening.
Certain targeted ovarian cancer treatments may cause holes to form in the colon. These holes are called perforations. This can lead to severe infection. Additional surgeries and medications may be needed to fix perforations.
Problems with the Port
If you’re undergoing chemotherapy treatment, your doctor may insert a device called a port in your chest. A port is a small disc-shaped opening that allows doctors to give chemotherapy treatments directly into your bloodstream. Over time, the port can become infected or damaged. This may lead to additional problems and complications.
Each type of treatment has its own unique side effects and complications. Those undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer may also experience:
- hair loss
- loss of appetite
- mouth sores
- rashes on the hands and feet
- bone thinning
- skin changes, including peeling and blistering
Procedures You May Need Because of Treatment
Some treatments may require other procedures or surgeries in order to work correctly. These include:
- Colostomy. Your surgeon might need to remove a small portion of your colon in order to remove a tumor or potentially malignant cells. In some cases, the surgeon can just reconnect the colon and sew it together. But this isn’t always possible. This is when a colostomy becomes an option. During this procedure, your surgeon will connect the top of your colon to an opening on your abdomen. Waste will pass out of your body through this opening or stoma. Most people who’ve had a colostomy will eventually be able to have their colon reattached.
- Catheter. Your surgeon may need to remove a portion of your bladder if cancerous cells are detected in your bladder. If so, your doctor may insert a catheter into your bladder through your urethral duct. The catheter will drain your bladder as it recovers from the surgery. The catheter will be removed once the bladder heals.
- Ureteric stent. You may want to have a ureteric stent put in place if a tumor, or cancerous cells, blocks one or both of your urethras. This stent helps your body flush out liquid waste. In rare cases, the catheter may become clogged, damaged, or infected. This could lead to additional damage to your urinary tract or bowel.
Ending the Side Effects
Most of these side effects will stop when your treatment stops. Some of these side effects are more permanent. Weigh your options and understand the potential risks and benefits before you begin any kind of treatment.