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Ovarian cancer occurs predominantly in women age 50 to 60 years. A small percentage of ovarian cancers can be attributed to an inherited gene mutation. There are also several risk factors such as the long-term use of hormone replacement therapy, fertility treatments, and smoking. Symptoms of ovarian cancer include unusual vaginal bleeding and discharge, soreness and pain in the lower pelvic area, abdominal pain and bloating, and changes in your bathroom habits. If you experience a cluster of these symptoms, consult your physician. Annual well-woman check-ups can also screen for ovarian cancer, especially if you have risk factors.

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Surgical Procedures

Surgical removal of tumors and affected tissue is the primary treatment for ovarian cancer. The surgeon's goal is typically to remove the whole tumor tissue. However, this might not be possible in a single procedure. The type and number of operations you will need depend on your general health and whether or not cancer has already spread. Another factor to consider is whether or not you are near childbearing age. This is important because it may be possible to remove only one ovary instead of both and the uterus. Staging and debulking are the two objectives during surgery. Staging refers to determining how far cancer has spread. Debulking is the term for surgical removal of the cancerous growths. A gynecologic oncologist is a specialist who is trained to treat ovarian cancer; specifically staging and debulking. This process can improve the overall chances of survival for women with ovarian cancer.

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Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a common treatment for many types of cancer. After surgery, some cancerous cells may remain in the body and chemotherapy will help eliminate them. The side effects of systemic chemotherapy depend on the length and type of treatment. Both your gynecologic oncologist and your chemotherapy specialist will help with the ovarian cancer treatment. They'll also recommend therapies for managing the side effects of chemotherapy. It is important to remember that each patient responds to treatments differently. Chemotherapy drugs can have enough potency to destroy the remaining cancerous cells in your body.

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Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy

Another treatment is a combination of systemic and intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy. IP chemotherapy involves implanting a port and catheter directly into the peritoneal area for continuous medication. IP therapy has been a common cancer treatment for decades. This method of chemo can be combined with intravenous therapy as well. Using the combination of the two may increase the chance of full recovery, especially for women with an advanced stage. Discuss the chemotherapy protocols for ovarian cancer with your gynecologic oncologist.

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Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy

Surgery is generally performed before administering any chemotherapy. In some cases, however, medication may be a first line treatment. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is administered when there is an indication that chemotherapy should happen before a surgical procedure. The main reason to go this route is to reduce the size of the cancerous tumor. That way, when surgery is performed, the chance of removing all of the affected cells is greater. This type of chemotherapy will typically have the same side effects as other forms of chemotherapy. It may be administered either via IV or IP injections.

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Targeted Therapies

Drugs and other medications are used to identify and attack cancerous cells. There are others, complementary medications, that help the cancer-fighters avoid destroying normal, healthy cells. In addition to minimizing incidental damage to the healthy cells, targeted therapy can reprogram the inner machinery of the cancerous cells, specifically. The side effects vary from drug to drug, but they all are aimed at changing the pattern of cancerous cells from growing, dividing, and spreading. Targeted therapies like angiogenesis inhibitors might be recommended either in association with chemotherapy or as a single treatment.

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PARP Inhibitors

PARP stands for poly (ADP)-ribose polymerase. This series of drugs allows your body to fix abnormal DNA inside of cells. They also inhibit the ability of tumor cells with mutated genes to repair their own damaged DNA. PARP inhibitors are used to treat advanced ovarian cancer. Due to the invasive nature of the treatment regimen, this series of medications are generally used only after chemotherapy was attempted. Ovarian cancers that are associated with a mutation of the certain genes have been shown to respond well to PARP inhibitors. These medications have been tested successfully in patients with various types of BRCA gene mutations. Your doctor can order a simple blood test to determine if you are a candidate for PARP Inhibitors.

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Radiotherapy

High energy x-ray machines allow particles to destroy cancerous cells. This kind of treatment can be completed much like a routine diagnostic x-ray. The radiation is administered to kill remaining tumors in the pelvic area. It may also be vital for treating ovarian cancer that spread to other parts of the body. The primary method is external beam radiation therapy. The treatments only last a couple of minutes but are performed daily for weeks. A machine focused on the particular location of the body emits the radiation, but exposure is minimal. This method can be useful in treating patients with stage one and two ovarian cancer.

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Hormone Therapy

A mixture of hormones and hormone-blocking drugs can help treat ovarian stromal tumors. Some well-known hormones include Luteinizing-hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists. This type of therapy stops estrogen production in premenopausal women. Aromatase inhibitors stop estrogen production in postmenopausal women. Neither of these treatments prohibits estrogen making altogether. Hormone therapy includes other medications that block the activity of estrogen circulating in a woman's body. The goal of these is to prevent cancer cell growth. Talk to your doctor about what hormonal therapies can benefit your ovarian cancer treatment protocol. It depends on the stage, type, and location of your cancer.

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Clinical Trials

Researchers and scientists are always studying better ways to beat cancer. As a part of their ongoing efforts, clinical trials are available before, during, and after treatment for patients with ovarian cancer. Some women who have found limited success with existing ovarian cancer treatments may consider experimental protocols. If you are interested in taking part in a clinical trial, you should discuss the available outlets on a local and national level with your medical provider. Bear in mind that clinical trials do not have a statistical success rate. You might respond differently than other participants.

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Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies can also help treat ovarian cancer. Some examples include acupuncture, massage therapy, and special diets. Herbal products such as vitamins, oils, and teas are often used, too. Make sure you talk to your physician about any at-home remedies you are using because they may adversely interact with your medications. Your medical provider may offer both conventional and complementary therapies for ovarian cancer. It is important to develop a treatment plan that is both safe and effective.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.