Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill or reduce the number of cancer cells and help keep cancer from coming back. Used with surgery, it has been shown to extend the lives of women with ovarian cancer.

About 1 to 4 weeks after your surgery, you will likely begin chemotherapy. You’ll have it for about 6 months. How often you receive treatment will depend on the type of chemotherapy you receive. This depends on the size of the tumor and whether it is likely to spread quickly. You may have it every day, every week, every few weeks, or even once a month. You may be treated in the doctor’s office. Or you may be treated in the outpatient part of a hospital.

The drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach all parts of the body. This is why chemotherapy can be effective in treating ovarian cancer that has spread beyond the ovaries. However, the same drugs that kill cancer cells may also damage healthy cells.

Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles. Periods of chemotherapy treatment are alternated with rest periods when no chemotherapy is given.

There also is a new way to deliver chemotherapy. It’s called intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy. With IP chemotherapy, the medications are injected directly into the abdominal cavity. The goal is to deliver a large dose directly to the tumor location. IP chemotherapy is recommended for women with Stage III ovarian cancer in whom all of the tumor spots bigger than 1 centimeter were removed with surgery. IP chemotherapy has more short term toxicity. But recent studies have shown that it is associated with a longer survival rate. It is important for you to talk with your team about the pros and cons of this approach.

SOURCE CONTENT: Women's Cancer Network (

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