Treatment Options

Women with ovarian cancer and all gynecologic cancers are strongly encouraged to seek care from a gynecologic oncologist, a specialist in treating women’s reproductive cancers. Multiple studies have shown that patients whose surgery is performed by a gynecologic oncologist experience better outcomes. To find a gynecologic oncologist near you, use OCRA’s Find a Doctor tool.

What happens if you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer?

Typically, a gynecologic oncologist will perform debulking surgery, also called cytoreductive surgery. During this surgery, the doctor will try to remove as much of the tumor as possible, as well as stage the disease definitively and identify the optimal treatment for the cancer. 

Prior to the surgery, the doctor will explain the nature of the operation and the extent of tissue that will be removed. During the operation, the doctor will assess how far the tumor has spread, to determine the stage of the cancer, and will give tissue samples to a pathologist, who will determine the grade of the cancer.After the operation, the doctor will recommend the chemotherapy strategy specific for you. A doctor might also offer the possibility of enrolling in a clinical trial, if you meet the criteria for the research study.

Doctor in lab

Clinical Trials

Researchers carry out clinical trials to find ways of improving medical care and treatment. Patients are eligible to participate in a clinical trial at any point: before, during or after treatment. Many people think of clinical trials as a last resort for when other treatments have failed. In reality, many equally important trials are available for patients earlier in their fight against cancer.

Questions for Your Doctor

Making a list of questions before an appointment with a doctor can be useful because the shock and stress of the diagnosis can make it hard to remember things, and medical care can be complicated and difficult to understand. Taking notes of the doctor’s responses or having a friend or relative with you during appointments can be helpful.

Here are some questions the National Cancer Institute suggests you might ask a doctor early in treatment:

  • What is the stage of my disease? Has the cancer spread? If so, where did it originate and where has it spread to?
  • What are my treatment choices? Do you recommend intraperitoneal chemotherapy for me? Why or why not?
  • Would a clinical trial be appropriate for me?
  • Will I need more than one kind of treatment?
  • What are the expected benefits of each kind of treatment?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment? What can we do to control side effects? Will they go away after treatment ends?
  • What can I do to prepare for treatment?
  • How long will I need to stay in the hospital? Can I get chemotherapy at my local hospital if it is too far to drive to a major medical center?
  • What is the treatment likely to cost? Will my insurance cover the cost?
  • How will treatment affect my normal activities?
  • Will treatment cause me to go through early menopause?
  • Will I be able to get pregnant and have children after treatment?
  • How often should I have checkups after treatment?

If you do not feel comfortable with your doctor or want to seek a second opinion about your care, you have the right to do so. A second opinion allows you to hear more about your cancer and treatment options. Even if a second opinion agrees with the initial recommendation, it is an opportunity to learn more from another doctor’s perspective.

Learn what’s new in ovarian cancer research, treatment, and survivorship, as presented at our latest Conference.