Dr. Douglas A Levine: Hi! I am Dr. Douglas Levine and I am a Gynecologic Oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. I am also a member of the Ovarian Cancer Research Funds Scientific Advisory Committee. Today, I am going to speak a little about the medical treatment of ovarian cancer. If you've been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you and your doctor will work together to create a treatment plan.
You may want to take an active role in making decisions about your medical care and many women find they are learning as much as possible about treatment options helps them cope. The treatment of ovarian cancer depends on the stage of the disease, the type of ovarian cancer you have and your age and overall condition.
Dr. Carmel J Cohen: Ovarian cancer like all the other cancers is divided into stages and the reason for staging any cancer is first of all when treatments are applied to patients one can attach the success of the treatment to patients in various stages of the disease.
Dr. Douglas A. Levine: The extent to which cancer is spread determines the stage of the disease. This is important because your doctor will need to understand the stage of the disease to be able to plan your treatment. In stage one, cancer cells are found in one or both ovaries. Cancer cells maybe found on the surface of the ovaries or in the fluid collected from the abdomen.
In stage two, the cancer cells have spread from one or both ovaries to other tissues in the pelvis. Cancer cells are found on the fallopian tubes, the uterus or other tissues in the pelvis. In stage three, the cancer cells have spread to tissues outside the pelvis and into the abdomen or to lymph nodes, and maybe found on the surface of the liver.
Stage four is the most advanced, at this stage cancer cells have spread to tissues outside the abdomen and pelvis. Cancer cells maybe found inside the liver, in the lungs, or in other organs. There are two main treatment types for ovarian cancer; Surgery and Chemotherapy. Radiation therapy which is used for many other types of tumors is rarely used for ovarian cancer.
Surgery to remove the cancer is the most common method of diagnosis and therapy for ovarian cancer. Your doctor should refer you to a gynecologic oncologist as these are the most qualified physicians to provide initial treatment for known or presumed ovarian cancer. A gynecologic oncologist is an obstetrician gynecologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of women with cancer of the reproductive organs.
Dr. Carmel J Cohen: GYN Oncologist are trained not only in the physiology of these diseases and in their prevention, screening and early detection, but also in their therapy. So, this is a person who as has been demonstrated in multiple publications achieves a much higher cure rate in all of these diseases than does the general OB/GYN, the general surgeon or the family practitioner.
If you need to find one you can certainly get one through the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund website and there are other websites which would list these people.
Dr. Douglas A. Levine: During the surgery, the surgeon will remove both ovaries and fallopian tubes, the uterus and lymph nodes. If the cancer has spread the surgeon will remove as much cancer as possible and this is called Debulking Surgery.
Chemotherapy is another standard part of treating ovarian cancer. Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer using medications that travel throughout the blood stream to destroy the cancer cells and to stop them from growing both in and outside the ovaries. Most women have chemotherapy for ovarian cancer after surgery.
Chemotherapy drugs can be given by vein, by vein and directly into the abdomen or by mouth. Chemotherapy is given in cycles, with each treatment cycle followed by a period of rest. The earlier ovarian cancer has caught the more likely it is that your cancer can be treated successfully and will be gone for good.
Unfortunately, many women's ovarian cancer is not diagnosed until later stages when it is harder to treat successfully. As a result, many patients face recurrence and the cancer returns after a period of remission. You will work with your doctor to determine the best course of action if your ovarian cancer recurs.
Treatment will usually involve additional chemotherapy or surgery and will depend among other things on how well you initially responded to treatment. Clinical trials also offer patients the oppoutunity to take advantage of some of the most promising new treatments and help us to improve the outcomes for all women with ovarian cancer.
Many advances have been made in improving the treatment of ovarian cancer and researchers including many funded by the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund are working hard on developing new and better treatments.
If you want to learn more about ovarian cancer, check out our other videos including lifestyle changes and self-care during ovarian cancer treatments.