How is recurrent ovarian cancer treated?

After your ovarian cancer treatment, you will have to follow up closely with your doctor so that you can diagnose and treat any recurrences in a timely manner. Recurrent ovarian cancer may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or a trial of other anticancer drugs. The doctor may decide that chemotherapy alone is best, or you may have surgery without any other treatment. Also, you may be able to enter a clinical trial.

Sharyn N. Lewin, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
The overall likelihood that ovarian cancer will recur after intitial therapy is high. This depends upon how advanced the disease was at diagnosis (the stage), how much visible tumor was removed at the original "debulking" surgery and the woman's age at diagnosis. Other factors like grade or cell type, functional capacity and type of chemotherpy also affect whether or not the cancer will come back and when this may happen.

Once new symptoms are noted, CT scan diagnosis of new disease is found and/or a rise in CA-125 is detected, treatment will be restarted including chemotherapy given either intraveneously (into the vein) or intraperitoneal (into the abdomen).

Women may be undergo more operative procedures to remove new cancer or be enrolled in clinical trials. Some new trials with a heated chemotherapy wash at the time of surgery are underway.
Gustavo Rodriguez, MD
Gynecologic Oncology
There are a lot of options for treating recurrent ovarian cancer, and there are a lot of factors that doctors take into consideration when choosing a treatment regimen. One question that many women have is if an individual was treated with a platinum drug and Taxol upfront, and then the cancer recurs, why in the world would doctors ever use those drugs again? You would think that if the cancer was not completely eliminated with those drugs, then those drugs would not be effective.

In fact, for recurrences that happen more than six months after chemotherapy, the outcome is even better when using these drugs again.
Most women with ovarian cancer experience a recurrence that must be treated. The probability of recurrence in women with ovarian cancer is significant.

For ovarian cancers that have recurred, doctors may use the chemotherapy drugs topotecan (Hycamtin), liposomal doxorubicin (Doxil), etoposide (Etopophos, Vepesid), gemcitabine (Gemzar), vinorelbine (Navelbine), and/or cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), targeted agents such as bevacizumab (Avastin) and/or other drugs.

It is anticipated that emerging therapies will help increase overall survival time and offer hope to those living with the disease. Today, women with ovarian cancer are more likely than ever to live for years after diagnosis, thanks to more aggressive surgical techniques and the use of chemotherapies such as paclitaxel and carboplatin. They're also more likely to seek help from healthcare professionals who specialize in ovarian cancer (gynecologic oncologists).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.