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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Ovarian Cancer, Version 1.2017


Cancer treatments


Laparoscopy may be used in select cases, such as

when cancer is only in the ovaries. Rarely, it may be

used when cancer has spread outside the ovaries.

This surgery should only be done by a gynecologic

oncologist with a lot of experience.

Preparing for surgery

Your treatment team will give you instructions on how

to prepare for your surgery. You may be asked to

stop taking some medicines for a short time. You also

should not eat or drink after midnight the night before

the surgery.

On the day of your surgery, you will be given

medicine to put you into a deep sleep so you won’t

feel pain. This is called general anesthesia. Surgery

may take three or more hours to complete. More or

less time may be needed depending on how much

tissue is removed.

After the surgery, you will need to stay in the hospital

for a few days or weeks to recover. You may feel

some pain and tenderness in your belly and pelvis.

This may last for a few days or weeks. You may not

be able to return to normal activities in a few weeks.

The time it takes to fully recover varies from person

to person. It also varies depending on the extent of

the surgery.

Risks and side effects of surgery

With any type of surgery, there are some health risks

and side effects. A side effect is an unhealthy or

unpleasant condition caused by treatment. Common

side effects of any surgery include pain, swelling,

and scars. But, the side effects of surgery can differ

between people. They also differ based on the type

and extent of surgery.

Some common side effects of surgery for ovarian

cancer include leg swelling, trouble urinating,

and constipation. If you haven’t gone through

menopause, then surgery that removes both ovaries

will cause menopause.

Menopause is the point in time when you won’t

have another menstrual period again. When caused

by surgery, the symptoms of menopause may be

sudden and more severe. Symptoms of menopause

include hot flashes, changes in mood, trouble

sleeping, vaginal dryness, weight gain, and night


All of the side effects of ovarian cancer surgery are

not listed here. Ask your treatment team for a full

list of common and rare side effects. If a side effect

bothers you, tell your treatment team. There may be

ways to help you feel better.


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer

cells. Many people refer to this treatment as

“chemo.” Chemotherapy drugs kill fast-growing cells

throughout the body, including cancer cells and

normal cells.

Most women with ovarian cancer receive

chemotherapy after primary treatment with surgery.

This is called adjuvant treatment. Your doctor may

also refer to this as primary chemotherapy. In certain

cases, chemotherapy may be given to shrink the

cancer before surgery.

Different types of chemotherapy drugs attack cancer

cells in different ways. Some kill cancer cells by

damaging their DNA (







molecules that contain coded instructions for making

and controlling cells. Others interfere with parts of

cells that are needed for making new cells.

Many types of chemotherapy drugs are used for

ovarian cancer. Two of the main types used are

platinum agents and taxanes. Platinum agents

damage DNA in cells, which stops them from making

new cells and causes them to die.