Ovarian cancer treatment most often consists of a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. The recommended plan can vary based on several key factors, including the type and stage of the cancer as well as the patient’s overall health and preferences. At Moffitt Cancer Center, we offer a multispecialty approach to ovarian cancer care through which each patient has access to multiple experts – not just one physician – in a single location. Every week, a group of highly specialized medical professionals conducts a tumor board review to discuss the patient’s pathology in detail. To ensure the best possible care, each recommended treatment plan incorporates input from gynecologic oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists, genetic counselors, and supportive care providers.
When treating ovarian cancer, surgery is often needed to determine the extent of the cancer and whether it has spread. A gynecologic oncologist might remove tissue samples, lymph nodes and abdominal fluid for further testing. If, during this procedure, a gynecologic oncologist determines that cancer has spread, he or she will remove as much cancer as possible at that time. Having the skill to remove cancer to an optimal level whenever possible is essential to give the best possible survival chance and outcomes for our patients. This surgical skill is one thing that defines a Moffitt gynecologic oncologist and gives our patients an advantage as they start their treatment.
Several surgical techniques are available for ovarian cancer treatment, including:
- Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy – Removes one ovary and one fallopian tube (usually an option for non-cancerous
- conditions (but may be appropriate for some cancers in younger patients)
- Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy – Removes both ovaries and fallopian tubes
- Hysterectomy – Removes the uterus and cervix, along with the surrounding tissues, the ovaries and the upper part of the vagina.
- Lymph node dissection – Removes the lymph nodes in the pelvic and para-aortic areas
- Omentectomy – Removes the thin tissue that covers the stomach and large intestine
- Cytoreductive/debulking surgery – Removes as much tumor as is safely possible, which might entail the removal of tissue from nearby organs, such as the gallbladder, spleen, stomach, bladder or colon
Following surgery, chemotherapy is sometimes incorporated into an ovarian cancer treatment plan to attempt to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Although chemotherapy can be administered orally, most of the drugs used to treat ovarian cancer are administered intravenously by injecting them directly into a vein, or intraperitoneally by placing a catheter in the patient’s abdomen to deliver chemotherapy directly into the pelvic area.
In addition to chemotherapy, the treatment may involve some newer biologically targeted approaches based on the patient’s inherited or the cancer cells’ genetics. Moffitt is one of the very few places in the country to have its own separate genetics tumor board, which reviews our patients’ molecular genetics and makes recommendations for the best current treatment or any available clinical studies. Having the best therapy as part of the initial treatment is one of the most important things that can be done to have the longest possible survival.
Medically reviewed by Robert Wenham, MD, Chair, Gynecologic Oncology Program
If you'd like to discuss ovarian cancer treatment options with the team of ovarian cancer experts, please call 1-888-663-3488 or schedule an appointment online. Virtual visit appointments may be available.
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