Ovarian Cancer Treatment Side Effects
Most women will need chemotherapy, or "chemo," as part of their ovarian cancer treatment. While your surgeon will remove as much of the cancer as possible during your surgery, it's usually impossible to remove all of it. Chemotherapy is used to get rid of or slow down the growth of any cancer cells that remain after surgery. Some women will have chemotherapy before surgery.
Chemotherapy works by targeting rapidly dividing cells in the body. Since ovarian cancer cells divide rapidly, they are killed by chemotherapy. Unfortunately, many healthy cells in the body also divide rapidly, and chemotherapy drugs can't tell the difference between these healthy cells and cancer cells. So while the drugs are busy killing cancer cells, they're also killing your normal, healthy cells.
Many of the cells in the body are rapidly dividing -- including blood cells, cells that line the gastrointestinal tract, and hair follicle cells. These healthy cells will eventually recover from chemotherapy. But, in the meantime, destroying them will cause side effects.
The specific side effects can differ, depending on which chemotherapy drugs are being used in your treatment regimen. Talk to your healthcare provider about the medicines you'll be receiving. Certain side effects are expected from most of the chemotherapy medicines typically used for ovarian cancer. Some of the side effects you might experience include:
- A decrease in blood cell counts, leading to:
- Fatigue from anemia
- Bleeding or bruising from reduced platelet levels
- Infection from reduced white blood cells
- Hair loss
- Nerve pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mouth sores.