Because of the difficulty of diagnosing ovarian cancer early, most woman have stage III or IV disease--meaning the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries--by the time they are diagnosed.
Even so, the majority (70 percent or better) of the women we treat for ovarian cancer can expect a complete response to their initial treatment.
Despite treatment, however, ovarian cancer sometimes recurs. It may come back elsewhere in the abdomen or in distant sites. Although tumors may appear in different sites it is not a new cancer, it is a recurrence of the original cancer.
If you have recurrent ovarian cancer, SCCA can offer you new medical procedures and treatments, as well as access to clinical trials, that your community doctor may not know about.
No one at SCCA will tell you that a diagnosis of recurrent disease is not serious, but there is hope. There are a number of new drugs that are effective against recurrent ovarian cancer, and one of these drugs may put you back in remission. Gynecologic oncologists are beginning to treat ovarian cancer as a chronic disease, one that can be managed with periods of treatment and periods of remission, with a focus on good quality of life throughout.
The treatment you receive for a recurrence of your ovarian cancer may include surgery or chemotherapy or a combination of these treatments. Radiation therapy is not commonly used to treat recurrent ovarian cancer. Your treatment will depend on a number of factors, including the type of treatment you have received in the past, how long since your first diagnosis, and the symptoms you are experiencing with the new cancer.
If you did not have chemotherapy previously, then your doctors will probably recommend that you have exploratory surgery, during which as much tumor as possible will be removed. They will probably recommend that you follow surgery with six chemotherapy treatments with a combination of paclitaxel (Taxol®) and carboplatin (Paraplatin®).
If you were treated with chemotherapy previously, your doctors may not recommend that you have further surgery. Rather, they may suggest a new chemotherapy, especially if the only indicator that you have a recurrence is a rising CA 125 tumor marker level.
Ask your doctor about taking part in clinical trials of promising treatments for metastatic disease. One of these is pairing chemotherapy with biological therapy, which is only available in a clinical trial at this time.