There are different types of ovarian cancers but the mostcommon type is cancer of epithelial cells of ovaries. Women between 40 and 65are at greatest risk of developing ovarian cancer, and according to the statistics,this is the seventh most common cancer among women in the United States (US).
The treatment often includes surgical removal of the canceroustissue and chemotherapy. In some cases, chemotherapy (treatment withanti-cancer drugs) might be suggested by your doctor both before and after thesurgery, or only after the surgical procedures. Certain types of ovarian cancerare not treated with medications after the surgical removal of the canceroustissue.
Surgery for Ovarian Cancer
Surgical procedures used for ovarian cancers include theelimination of cancerous tissue. The gynecologist oncologist surgeons will tryto remove as much cancerous tissue as they can, and these procedures are knownas optimal cytoreduction or optimal surgical debulking.
Chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer
Chemotherapy is actually the treatment with certain drugs,in order to stop the growth of cancer cells in the body. Drugs affect thegrowth and reproduction of fast growing cells, which are cancer cells. Most ofthe normal human cells are growing slow and they are not affected bychemotherapy. However, there are also fast growing normal human cells – hair,gastrointestinal and bone marrow cells, which get affected with the use of anti-cancermedications. Effects on the normal cells caused therefore some unwanted sideeffects, such as the loss of hair, intestinal problems and blood-relatedproblems.
In general, chemotherapy medications can be givenintravenously (IV), but there are some oral drugs, as well as someintraperitoneal (IP) drugs, given to the patients’ abdomen.
As mentioned, chemotherapy can be given before and/or afterthe surgical procedure. If it is used before the surgical removal of theovarian cancer this type of therapy is known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy andafter the surgery is adjuvant chemotherapy.
The most commonly used chemotherapy medications for ovariancancer patients are Taxol (paclitaxel) and carboplatin and cisplatin (chemotherapeuticdrugs made of platinum). Usually, doctors recommend taking the combination ofpaclitaxel and a platinum-type medication as the drugs of choice for patientssuffering from ovarian cancer.
Treatment of Ovarian Cancer According to the Stage
The treatment for ovarian cancer depends on the stage of thecancer. If the woman’s cancer is in the stage IA or IB doctors usually won’t recommendany chemotherapy after the surgery.
Women with IC or other higher grade ovarian cancer could beadvised to have adjuvant chemotherapy, usually a combination of paclitaxel andplatinum-type medication. The treatment should start couple of weeks after thesurgery and each cycle of medications should last for three weeks. The number of cyclesof treatment may vary from 3 to 6, depending on the specialist. Another optionfor these women is the treatment with carboplatin alone, more often recommendedin Europe than in the US.
Stage II patients are also advised to use adjuvant chemotherapywith the same drugs, and to use IP or IV chemotherapy after the surgicalremoval of the cancer.
Stage III and IV ovarian cancer patients should also use chemotherapyfor 6 cycles. Some new researches suggest the use of another drug, known asbevacizumab (Avastin) as the additional treatment, along the combination of paclitaxeland platinum drug. IP chemotherapy is recommended for optimally removed cancerin stage III, but the toxicity and complications of the treatment might make itless acceptable than IV chemotherapy.