Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Less often, treatment may include radiotherapy. The type of treatment women receive depends on the type and stage of their ovarian cancer and their general health.
The first treatment stage of ovarian cancer is generally an operation called a laparotomy. This operation is also the main way that a diagnosis of ovarian cancer is confirmed.
A vertical cut is made to look inside the abdomen and a small section of the ovarian tumour is removed for examination (a biopsy). This is called a frozen section. If the frozen section confirms that the tumour is cancer, the operation will continue.
If cancer is confirmed and the disease appears confined to the ovary, a ‘staging laparotomy’ will take place, involving biopsies taken from the omentum, peritoncum and lymph nodes to see if and where the cancer has spread.
Depending on the stage of the cancer the operation can involve removal of both ovaries, fallopian tubes, the uterus, the omentum (the fat pad around the organs in your abdomen), the appendix and some of the lymph glands in the area. Sometimes it may be necessary to remove some of the bowel.
Most women with ovarian cancer will require chemotherapy. Chemotherapy treatment is given under the guidance of a medical oncologist.
Radiotherapy is rarely used as a primary treatment for ovarian cancer, but rather as part of overall treatment.
Everyone’s situation and ovarian cancer is different. A treatment plan for one woman may not be suitable for another woman. Deciding on the most appropriate treatment(s) means weighing up the possible benefits and side effects of each treatment. Treatment is best managed by a gynaecological oncologist.