When it comes to ovarian cancer treatment, there are three main options available to you; surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Make sure to talk to your doctor about which treatment is right for you. Here is an explanation of each form of treatment.
Surgery is the first option for treating ovarian cancer. A surgeon makes an incision in the side of the stomach in which to work from. This kind of surgery is considered a laparotomy. If there is cancer found in the ovaries, the surgeon them removes both of the ovaries, as well as the fallopian tubes. He then proceeds to remove the uterus, the omentum, lymph nodes located nearby, and samples of tissue from the area. Once the surgeon has figured out whether the cancer has spread, he or she tries to remove as much of it as possible. This surgery technique is called “debulking”.
If you have caught the cancer at a very early stage, you may want to discuss with your doctor about only removing one ovary and fallopian tube. This will allow you to still be able to have children. The omentum will also be removed as well.
The first days after the surgery you may feel uncomfortable due to the pain. Medicine should be administered. Prior to the surgery, you should discuss which pain relievers will be used. If the pain medication is not working, then an adjustment can be made to help ease the pain. It takes time to heal after a surgery and each woman is different. Several days will be spent in the hospital and it may be a few weeks to a month before normal activities can be enjoyed.
Chemotherapy is the next option. Using anticancer drugs, doctors try to kill off the cancer cells. The drugs can be introduced to the body through many different routes of administration. Intravenously injecting the drugs involves a drug being administered through a thin tube that is put into a vein. It is also possible to have the drug sent directly to the abdomen through a thin tube. This is called intraperitoneal chemotherapy. Drugs for this type of cancer can also be administered by mouth as well.
Chemo is administered in cycles. After treatment, you have a rest period. Both the amount of times administered and the length of the rest period are decided by which anticancer drug that is used. One of the pluses of this treatment is that it can be administered at a clinic, doctor’s office, or even at home, although some women must stay in the hospital.
Radiation therapy is the third option in treating ovarian cancer. A high-energy beam is used to kill cancer cells directed by a large machine. This form of treatment is rarely initially, but used to help problems that are caused by the disease. The treatment takes a short period of time and must be administered at a hospital or clinic.
The side effects of surgery for ovarian cancer are much like any surgery. If you are pre-menopause, the surgery can cause hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Loss of female hormones is the culprit of these symptoms. Make sure to fully discuss all symptoms that may occur with your doctor or nurse. They may be able to help by the use of drugs and suggesting certain changes in lifestyle. Most symptoms will lessen or even go away with time.
The side effects from chemotherapy can depend on how much and which drug is used. Chemo can hurt regular cells of the body including blood cells, cells in the hair roots, and cells along the digestive tract. If the drug affects the blood cells you are more prone to getting infections, bruises, and you may feel tired and weak. There are, however, medicines to help you make new blood cells. If the drug affects the cells in the roots of your hair, you may have temporary hair loss. It may grow back but expect it to possibly have a slight different color and texture. When digestive tract cells are affected, you may have poor appetite, diarrhea, mouth sores, lip sores, nausea, and vomiting.
Some chemotherapy drugs can also make you lose your hearing, damage your kidneys, give you joint pain, or give you numbness in your extremities. Expect these side effects to go away soon after treatment ends.
The side effects of radiation therapy will depend on how much radiation is used and what part of the body it is used on. In this case, the radiation will possibly cause diarrhea, bloody stool, nausea, and vomiting. The skin around the area can become dry, red, and tender.
Through an explanation of the three forms of treatment for ovarian cancer and an explanation of the possible side effects that each may cause, you should have a better understanding of what to expect if you or one of your loved ones must go through the process.