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Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian Cancer: The Caregiver's Role
By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 3 of 5)

Chemotherapy is used in the event that doctors were not able to determine if all cancer was removed during surgery. The higher the staging of the cancer, the more likely it is that chemotherapy will be needed. Some tumors, for example, may not be removed completely by surgery. Chemotherapy, in conjunction with radiation therapy, can shrink the tumors.

Most, but not all, chemotherapy treatments are given intravenously, either through an IV that is inserted at each treatment or through an IV port that stays in the vein and is accessed each time a treatment is needed. The port can be removed when chemotherapy is completed. Some chemotherapy treatments are given orally, while others may be given directly into the abdominal cavity or into a muscle (intramuscular). The type of chemotherapy used depends on the type of ovarian cancer being treated. In addition, the number of doses and the frequency also depend on the stage; these factors also take into consideration how quickly a patient can recover from a dose of chemotherapy treatment. Some patients can endure chemotherapy once every three weeks, while others may need slightly longer to recover. Normal cells need the chance to “bounce back” while not allowing cancer cells the same opportunity to recover. The doctor will discuss each of these factors when prescribing a treatment plan for chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy is generally only helpful in treatment if the cancer is still confined to a relatively small area, like the ovaries. Once the cancer begins to spread to other organs, radiation therapy loses its effectiveness since it cannot be sufficiently targeted to help kill the cancer cells.

Role of Clinical Trials in Follow-up Care:

Because of the relatively small window for effective detection and treatment of ovarian cancer, doctors regularly recommend that women enroll in a clinical trial for follow-up care. Women can help advance  the science of treating ovarian cancer at any stage of the disease. Even when the disease advances into the third and fourth stages where traditional treatment methods fail, it is still possible to learn from women in these categories so that further clinical advancements can be made.

Dr. Don Dizon, FACP, Assistance Professor, OB/GYN & Medicine at Brown Medical School notes, “Many of the advances in the treatment of ovarian cancer would not be possible if not for the women who participate in clinical trials. Whether they joined the trials before cancer was detected and taught physicians what to search for or after their cancer was in the treatment stages, doctors could still learn a great deal from them.”

 

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