Chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer typically involves getting an infusion of chemo drugs every 3–4 weeks before tumor removal surgery. This treatment may continue after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that are left behind.
Chemotherapy is a powerful treatment for many types of cancer, including ovarian cancer. It’s typically part of a larger overall treatment plan.
This article takes a closer look at the type of chemotherapy drugs that are used for ovarian cancer, how it’s given, and the possible side effects.
Chemo is often continued after surgery in an effort to destroy cancerous cells that may be left behind after the tumors have been removed.
Chemo is part of the treatment plan for most stages of ovarian cancer.
Chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves getting a combination of two different drugs at the same time. According to the American Cancer Society, this seems to be
The combination of chemotherapy drugs for ovarian cancer typically includes a platinum-based compound (most often carboplatin) and a different type of chemo drug known as a taxane (typically
Using different drugs together can help destroy cancer cells in different ways. For instance, the platinum-based chemo drugs work by binding to the DNA of cancer cells, which causes damage to the cell’s DNA, ultimately killing the cancer cell. The taxane drug works by preventing cancer cells from dividing and growing.
Another drug that’s commonly used alongside carboplatin and paclitaxel is bevacizumab (Avastin). Avastin isn’t a chemo drug. Instead, it works by blocking a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).
This protein is necessary to help cancer cells make new blood vessels. By blocking VEGF, Avastin cuts off the blood supply that cancer cells need to survive and grow.
The exact chemo drugs that are used may depend on many factors, including the type of ovarian cancer you have, the cancer stage, and other individual factors. Besides the drugs already mentioned, other chemo drugs that
The typical course of chemotherapy depends on a variety of factors and can vary from one person to the next. But there are some common treatment courses.
For instance, many people have chemo every 3 or 4 weeks for three treatment cycles before surgery. Often, chemotherapy drugs will be given for another
This chemo cycle maximizes the effectiveness of the chemo drugs, but also allows your body to rest and recover in between treatments. Chemo for ovarian cancer is usually given through an intravenous (IV) line that goes into a vein, or by taking a capsule by mouth.
Sometimes, chemotherapy is also delivered through a catheter placed in your stomach. This is called intraperitoneal chemotherapy. It delivers a concentrated amount of chemotherapy drugs directly into your abdominal cavity.
Intraperitoneal chemotherapy is used less often than systemic chemo that’s administered through an IV line, but it can be an effective way to destroy ovarian cancer cells when it’s used in addition to regular chemotherapy treatment.
There are many different types of side effects linked to chemo drugs. Not everyone will experience every side effect. The most common side effects include:
- loss of appetite
- hair loss
- skin rashes
- mouth sores
- increased risk of infections
- easy bruising and bleeding
These side effects are normally temporary. They’ll start to resolve once your chemo treatment has ended. Sometimes, long-term chemo side effects can occur. These are less common, but can include:
The survival rate of ovarian cancer after chemotherapy depends on multiple factors, such as:
The 5-year survival rates for three types of ovarian cancer are outlined by stage in the chart below. These rates are based on data collected by the
|Invasive epithelial ovarian cancer
|Ovarian stromal tumors
|Germ cell tumors of the ovary
|Overall 5-year survival rate
|Early stage 5-year survival rate
|Regional spread 5-year survival rate
|Distant spread (late stage) 5-year survival rate
Chemotherapy isn’t done alone. It’s part of an overall treatment plan for ovarian cancer. Other treatments that may be involved include:
- surgery to remove the cancerous tumor
- hormone therapy, which is most often used to treat ovarian stromal tumors
- targeted therapies that can help change the way some cancer cells grow, divide, or interact with other cells
- immunotherapy drugs that activate your immune system to detect and destroy cancer cells
Chemotherapy is a trusted and proven treatment for ovarian cancer. It’s used to destroy cancer cells before and after surgery and can be used for most stages of ovarian cancer.
Typically, chemo is given every 3 or 4 weeks for three treatment cycles before surgery. It’s often given for another three to six cycles after surgery. This can vary depending on the type of ovarian cancer you have, the cancer stage at the time of diagnosis, and the type of chemo drugs you’re given.
Chemotherapy isn’t used on its own. It’s part of an overall treatment plan that includes surgery to remove the tumor. Other therapies such as immunotherapy, hormone therapy, or targeted therapies may also be used.