NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Ovarian Cancer, Version 1.2017
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
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
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
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.