Ovarian Cancer Chemotherapy and Radiation

Chemotherapy

The second line of defense against ovarian cancer is typically chemotherapy treatment, using drugs to kill cancer cells. This may be prescribed before or after surgery and may be administered in different ways:

  • By vein (IV): The drugs can be given through a thin tube inserted into a vein.
  • By vein and directly into the abdomen: Some women get IV chemotherapy along with intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy. For IP chemotherapy, the drugs are given through a thin tube inserted into the abdomen.
  • By mouth: Some drugs for fallopian tube cancer can be given by mouth.

Regional Chemotherapy

Intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy is a form of regional chemotherapy in which the drugs are delivered directly to the abdomen.

IP chemotherapy uses the same drugs as intravenous (IV) chemotherapy, but at 10 times to 100 times the concentration, bathing the peritoneal cavity in anticancer agents. Research found that adding IP chemotherapy improved progression-free survival and overall survival significantly enough that the National Cancer Institute issued a clinical announcement recommending that women with Stage III ovarian cancer be considered for IP chemotherapy after the surgical removal of tumors.

To facilitate this method of chemotherapy, a port is placed in the patient’s abdomen for drug delivery. Treatment begins a couple weeks post surgery and continues once a month for six months. Because the toxicity of the drugs is higher, side effects may be more pronounced. Patients with early-stage ovarian cancer or those with certain risk factors may not be candidates for IP chemotherapy, so discuss this option, along with the risks and benefits, with your care team.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is rarely used in the initial treatment of ovarian cancer, but it may be used to relieve pain and other problems caused by the disease. Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. A large machine directs radiation at the body. The treatment is given at a hospital or clinic and each session takes only a few minutes.