Chemotherapy (chemo) is one of the most common forms of ovarian cancer treatment. While chemotherapy does have a reputation for causing side effects, each patient’s experience is unique. Some patients face only minor issues, while others have a tougher time. At Moffitt Cancer Center, however, we do everything we can to help our patients maintain a high quality of life throughout treatment and beyond.
How does chemotherapy cause side effects?
Chemo medications can destroy cancerous cells throughout the body – not just in the ovaries. This makes it especially beneficial for patients whose cancer has spread (or potentially may have spread) outside of the site of origin.
That said, because ovarian cancer chemotherapy affects the entire body, it can cause significant and wide-ranging side effects. Chemo medications are designed to target and destroy cancerous cells, which reproduce at an abnormally rapid rate. However, because some noncancerous cells also reproduce very rapidly, those cells may be inadvertently affected by chemotherapy as well. As a result, patients may experience complications such as:
- Hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea, constipation or both
- Neuropathy (tingling in the fingers and toes)
Chemotherapy can also cause fatigue, loss of appetite, decreased libido and short-term memory challenges. Additionally, because chemotherapy tends to weaken the immune system, people who are undergoing chemo may become particularly susceptible to infection.
Managing the side effects of ovarian cancer chemotherapy
Most of the side effects of chemotherapy go away after treatment is complete. However, that doesn’t mean that women have to deal with the complications on their own in the meantime. There are a variety of supportive care options that patients can rely on during chemotherapy to improve their quality of life. For instance, oncologists can prescribe medications to help with nausea and gastrointestinal distress, and water-soluble lubricants can make sexual activity more comfortable.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, our patients have options not only for physical support, but emotional and social support as well. Our Our gynecologic oncologists work hand-in-hand with social workers, counselors, clergy members and other experienced professionals who are committed to improving each patient’s quality of life. By looking beyond the physical discomfort and taking the bigger picture into account, we’re able to provide our patients with all of the resources they need before, during and after ovarian cancer treatment.
Medically reviewed by Hye Sook Chon, MD, gynecologic oncologist
For more information about chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, contact Moffitt Cancer Center. We do not require a physician’s referral to make an appointment. You can request a consultation by calling 1-888-663-3488 or submitting a new patient registration form online.