Ovarian Cancer Chemotherapy

The goals of using chemotherapy for ovarian cancer are to control (or even stop) tumor growth, relieve symptoms, and destroy cancer cells that remained in the body after surgery. This treatment method may be administered through a vein or given by mouth. Whether a person experiences side effects will depend on the drugs used and the amount. Common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, hair loss, and fatigue.

An Overview of Using Chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Ovarian cancer chemotherapy may be given to:
  • Destroy any cancerous cells that may remain in the body after surgery
  • Control tumor growth
  • Relieve symptoms of the disease.
Most chemotherapy drugs used for ovarian cancer treatment are given by injection into a vein (intravenously, or IV). The drugs can be injected directly into a vein or given through a catheter, which is a thin tube. The catheter is placed into a large vein and remains there as long as it is needed.
Some anticancer drugs are taken by mouth. However, whether they are given intravenously or by mouth, the drugs enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body.
Another way to give ovarian cancer chemotherapy is to put the drug directly into the abdomen through a catheter. With this method, called intraperitoneal chemotherapy, most of the drug remains in the abdomen.
After chemotherapy is completed, second-look surgery may be performed to examine the abdomen directly. The surgeon may remove fluid and tissue samples to see whether the anticancer drugs have been successful.

Side Effects From Ovarian Cancer Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy affects normal as well as cancerous cells. Side effects will depend largely on the specific drugs and the dose (amount of drug given). Common side effects of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer include:
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness and tingling in hands or feet
  • Headaches
  • Hair loss
  • Darkening of the skin and fingernails.
Certain drugs used in ovarian cancer treatment can cause some hearing loss or kidney damage. To help protect the kidneys while taking these drugs, patients may receive extra fluid intravenously.
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