Treating ovarian cancer with chemotherapy involves the use of special drugs to destroy cancer cells. In some cases, chemotherapy is administered before surgery. Most women have chemotherapy for ovarian cancer after their surgery.
There are two ways of administering chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. The first is called intraperitoneal chemotherapy, in which the drugs can be given directly into the abdomen and pelvis through a thin tube. The drugs destroy or control cancer in the abdomen and pelvis. This form of treatment is rarely used.
The second type of chemotherapy is called systemic chemotherapy. In this type, chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein. The drugs enter the bloodstream and destroy or control cancer throughout the body.
Usually, more than one drug is given, and chemotherapy is given in cycles. Each treatment period is followed by a rest period. The length of the rest period and the number of cycles depend on the specific type of cancer, and the anticancer drugs used.
You may have your treatment in a clinic, at your provider’s office, or at home. Some women will stay in the hospital during treatment.
The side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on which type and the amount of drugs that are given. These drugs can be very effective in terms of destroying rapidly dividing cancer cells. However, they can also harm normal cells that divide rapidly.
Blood cells are one type of rapidly dividing cell that can be harmed by chemotherapy drugs. Different kinds of blood cells fight infection, help blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all parts of your body. When chemotherapy affects your blood cells, you are more likely to get infections, bruise or bleed easily, and feel very weak and tired. Your healthcare team will monitor you for low levels of blood cells. If blood tests show low levels, your healthcare team can suggest medicines that can help your body make new blood cells.
Chemotherapy drugs can damage the roots of your hair, leading to hair loss. Your hair will grow back, although it may be somewhat different in terms of color and texture.
Chemotherapy drugs can damage the cells that line the digestive tract, causing poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, or mouth and lip sores. Ask your healthcare team about medicines that help with these problems.