What Happens During Chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer

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Chemotherapy drugs kill all rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells.

About one to four weeks after your surgery to remove ovarian tumors, you will likely begin chemotherapy. You'll have it for about six months. How often you receive treatment will depend on the type of chemotherapy you receive. This depends on the size of the tumor and whether it is likely to spread quickly. You may have it every day, every week, every few weeks, or even once a month.

How and Where You Get the Drugs

You may receive the drugs intravenously through an IV. This is called systemic therapy. The drugs enter the bloodstream and reach all areas of your body. This makes the treatment especially useful if your cancer has spread beyond the ovaries.

Or you may receive the drugs by injection directly into your abdomen. This is called intraperitoneal chemotherapy. Recent clinical trials show that using both delivery methods extends the survival of women with advanced ovarian cancer.

Most chemotherapy is given in a doctor's office or in the outpatient part of the hospital. The treatments can last several hours each.

The Kinds of Chemotherapy Drugs for Ovarian Cancer

There are several drugs to choose from. Your doctor may recommend more than one at the same time. This is called combination chemotherapy. Sometimes this works better. These chemotherapy drugs are typically used to treat ovarian cancer. They may be used alone or in combination.

  • Platinum agents such as Paraplatin (carboplatin) and Cisplatin. These are the drugs doctors most often use to treat ovarian cancer. They work by creating breaks in the genetic material inside each cell called DNA. This leads to cell death.

  • Taxanes such as Taxol (paclitaxel) and Taxotere (docetaxel). These prevent cells from dividing. This class of drugs is used in combination with cisplatin or carboplatin.

  • Anthracyclines such as Adriamycin (doxorubicin) and Doxil (liposomal doxorubicin). These are drugs often used if cancer comes back, called recurrence.

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