What are the options for treatment of ovarian cancer?

24 Aug 2021

If you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, your treatment will depend on the location and stage of your cancer, the severity of your symptoms and your own wishes.

Here are some treatment options you might be given. 

Treatments for ovarian cancer 

  • Surgery – Surgery is usually the first treatment for ovarian cancer. The type of surgery will depend on the stage of your cancer and whether it has spread. The aim for surgery is to remove as many of the cancer cells as possible, including any organs and tissues the cancer has spread to. The surgery will either be a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery with 3-4 small cuts in your abdomen) or a laparotomy (a long cut from your bellybutton to your bikini line). The type of surgery will depend on how certain the gynaecological oncologist is about where your cancer is and how far they think it’s spread. 
  • Depending on how far your cancer has spread, you may have your ovary and fallopian tube removed (Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy) or your entire uterus and cervix, along with both fallopian tubes and ovaries removed (Total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy). You may also need other tissues and organs removed as well as any abnormal looking lymph nodes.
  • Chemotherapy – Most women with ovarian cancer will have surgery then chemotherapy (called adjuvant chemotherapy) to remove any leftover cancer cells. It will usually start 2-4 weeks after surgery. Some women with stage III or IV ovarian cancer might have chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumour.           
  • Radiotherapy – Radiotherapy or radiation therapy uses x-ray beams to target cancer cells so they can’t grow, multiply or spread. It’s not commonly used for ovarian cancer although it can be recommended to treat the pelvis or other sites of cancer that have spread.
  • Targeted therapy – Targeted therapy can specifically attack cancer cells without harming normal cells. It blocks the proteins (enzymes) and stops cancer cells growing, dividing and repairing themselves. In Australia, a common targeted therapy is Bevacizumab which treats advanced epithelial tumours, which prevents the formation of the new blood vessels that are needed for the cancer to grow and spread. For women who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, Olaparib may be recommended. This PARP inhibitor is recommended after chemotherapy and it works by stopping the cancer from growing.           
  • Hormone therapy – Hormone therapy is mainly used for ovarian stromal tumours. Luteinising-hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists, tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors can prevent oestrogen from stimulating cancer cell growth.