Every year around 12,000 women die of ovarian cancer in the United States alone. The gravity of the situation can be gauged by this number. Ovarian cancer has very confusing symptoms which make women shy away from testing and treatment. Early diagnosis plays a great role in increasing the survival rate of the person and making her taste a virtually disease free life, enabling her to procreate.
There are various types of treatment methods used for ovarian cancer based on the stage of cancer. Survival rate are based on how far the cancer has extended and the patient’s response to the treatment.
Ovarian Cancer Therapy
Hysterectomy is the procedure by which almost all the reproductive organs are removed through surgery. This would involve the cervix, uterus, vaginal canal, fallopian tubes, ovaries and lymph nodes. Hysterectomy can be partial or radical depending on the extent of ovarian cancer. Most patients who have ovarian cancer are above the age of 60 and hence opt for a hysterectomy to prevent recurrence. As they are past their reproductive age, this is the best treatment option for them.
Radiation treatment is used to destroy the cancerous cells that could be present in the body after surgical removal of the cancer. More than half of the patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer are recommended radiation therapy for preventing future recurrence. However, as radiation treatment can create fertility problems in younger women as the exposure to radiation can damage reproductive organs, this treatment is not undertaken if possible for women of reproductive age.
Radiation therapy can be external or internal and high energy beams are used for killing the cells. Internal radiation therapy for ovarian cancer involves inserting radioactive liquid inside the abdomen through the use of a catheter.
Use of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is a rigorous treatment method which is used when the cancer has spread to other areas apart from the ovaries. It is a systemic treatment method where the drug that is injected into the body reaches all around the body and kills cells that are cancerous. Chemotherapy can be administered intravenously or as oral drugs.
Direct administration of chemotherapy in the abdomen through the insertion of a tube is known as intraperitoneal chemotherapy which is a concentrated form of chemotherapy. It is however not without side effects. Commonly used drugs for chemotherapy is a combination of carboplatin and paclitaxol. The dosage and method of administration depends on the type of ovarian cancer and the stage and also the patient’s overall health.
Metastatic Cancer and Recurrence
For advanced stages of ovarian cancer and recurrence, the treatment method is slightly modified with the use of clinical trials, biologic therapies and targeted therapies along with the normal procedures like chemotherapy and surgery.
Quite a few new treatment methods are being tested for ovarian cancer. Treatment methods like biologic therapy which uses the patient’s own immune system for fighting the disease and targeted therapy which destroys only the cancer cells offer new hope for many women who are suffering from the disease.