What are the Treatments for Ovarian Cancer?
Surgery is the initial step in treating ovarian cancer. The purpose of surgery is to diagnose and stage the ovarian cancer, and then to remove as much of the tumor or visible cancer as possible. A full hysterectomy - removal of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the uterus and the cervix - is usually performed. Often, lymph nodes in the abdomen and the thin tissue covering the stomach and the large intestine are removed also. After surgery, almost all patients require additional treatment. Staging generally involves removing the lymph nodes, fluid from the abdomen, tissue samples from the diaphragm and other organs.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells, to control tumor growth or to relieve symptoms of the disease. These drugs, usually paclitaxil (Taxol) and carboplatinum (Paraplatin) are received soon after surgery and are repeated every three to four weeks. There are generally six courses of treatment. Chemo is administered either through an IV and injected directly into a vein or through a catheter placed into the abdomen or into a large vein. There are numerous side effects of chemo, such as nausea, loss of appetite, hair loss, fatigue, numbness and tingling in hands and feet and darkening of the skin.
Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Radiation can be directed only at a specific area where treatment is needed. Some common side effects of radiation to the abdomen are: nausea, fatigue, vomiting, loss of appetite, skin changes or urinary discomfort.
This procedure is a complete surgical exploration of the abdomen and surrounding areas to determine the status of the ovarian cancer upon completion of the chemotherapy regimen. Restaging also occurs at this point. It is not uncommon for no detectable cancer to be found during this second-look surgery. The patient is considered to be in remission if no more cancer is found. However, there is a 50 percent chance for recurrence of the cancer. If cancer still remains in the abdomen, then treatment will commence.
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