Most women treated at SCCA for ovarian cancer will receive chemotherapy after their surgery to kill any cancer cells remaining. Some women will be treated with chemotherapy prior to attempt at surgery, called “neoadjuvant” chemotherapy. Generally these women are in poor general health and not good candidates for surgery initially.
Chemotherapy works by killing fast-growing cells, but the drugs cannot discriminate between cancer cells and other fast-growing cells such as hair follicles. That is one reason for many of the typical side effects of chemotherapy treatment, including hair loss.
You will probably receive a combination of two chemotherapy drugs. The standard chemotherapy for ovarian cancer is a combination of paclitaxel (Taxol®) plus either carboplatin (Paraplatin®) or cisplatin (Platinol®). You will probably have six cycles, or treatments, spaced three weeks apart.
Until recently, standard chemotherapy for advanced ovarian cancer was just given intravenously, with a drip into a vein. However, several large clinical trials showed a significant survival benefit in selected women with advanced ovarian cancer who were treated with directed chemotherapy given into the peritoneal space (abdominal cavity), called intraperitoneal chemotherapy (IP). Your SCCA doctor will talk to you about whether you may be a good candidate for this type of treatment.
Chemotherapy is given in the Infusion Suite on the fifth floor of SCCA. You may bring a friend or family member to sit with you during your treatment, which may take several hours.
Consider participating in a clinical trial. Promising new treatments, such as biological therapy, are only available through a clinical trial at this time (see “Participate in a Study” section).