Treatment for ovarian cancer

Main treatments

The main treatment for ovarian cancer is surgery. Other treatments include chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Your doctors will plan your treatment and consider the stage of the cancer, your age and general health.

Surgery

The aim of the surgery is to remove the tumour. Your doctor will discuss the surgery, depending on the type and size of the cancer and if it has spread. Surgery may be done before or after chemotherapy. There are different types of surgery such as:

  • Laparotomy: This operation opens up the abdomen so that the organs there can be examined and tissue samples taken. If the cancer is only in one ovary, it may be possible to remove the affected ovary and leave the other ovary and womb in place.
  • Radical hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy: In this operation, your cervix, womb, two ovaries and fallopian tubes are removed. A layer of fatty tissue that surrounds the organs in the abdomen (called the omentum) may also be removed.

See our Understanding cancer of the ovary booklet (pdf 3.23 MB) for more information on surgery.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control your cancer. It can be given after surgery (adjuvant therapy) in the treatment of ovarian cancer. The main chemotherapy drugs used may include the following:

Some of the above chemotherapy drugs may be given in combination, for example one of the most common drug combination for ovarian cancer are Carboplatin and Paclitaxel.

See the booklet Understanding Chemotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more information.

Learn more about chemotherapy

Biological Therapy

Avastin is a biological therapy that uses the body's immune system to treat cancer. Avastin may be given at the same time as and after chemotherapy.

Learn more about Avastin

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It may be used along with chemotherapy and surgery to treat your cancer. It may also be used to control symptoms such as pain or bleeding. Please see our booklet Understanding Radiotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, for more information on radiotherapy.

Learn more about radiotherapy

Advanced treatment

Advanced cancer is when the cancer has spread to the nearby tissues and organs, for example, the bowel. Your treatment in this case will depend on the extent of the cancer, which organs are affected, and your general health. It may be possible to keep the cancer under control by surgery or chemotherapy. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy may help to control symptoms by shrinking a cancer to prevent pressure and pain and slows its growth. This is called palliative treatment.

Learn more about treatments

Side effects

The type of side-effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. Some treatments may cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and loss of appetite or hair loss. Many treatments cause fatigue.

If you are a younger woman, removing the ovaries means that you will get an early menopause. This may involve hot flushes, dry skin, night sweats. It is important to discuss this with your doctor. You could also read our factsheet Managing Menopausal Symptoms (pdf, 425 KB).

For more about coping with side-effects, see our Understanding Cancer of the Ovary (pdf 3.32MB) booklet, or our other booklets on Understanding ChemotherapyUnderstanding RadiotherapyCoping with Fatigue, Hair Loss, Diet and Cancer and Understanding Cancer and Complementary Therapies.

Learn more about side effects

Clinical trials

If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not.

Learn more about clinical trials