When you receive ovarian cancer treatment at MD Anderson, a team of some of the nation’s foremost experts customizes your care. This team of specialists communicates and collaborates at every step. They customize your ovarian cancer treatment to be sure you receive the highest chance for successful treatment with the least impact on your body.
Our physicians have extensive experience in treating every type of ovarian cancer, including rare ovarian cancers. We offer the latest, most-advanced therapies, including surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapies and targeted therapies.
Surgery usually is the first step in treating ovarian cancer. It is crucial that your surgeon be experienced in this delicate procedure. Studies have shown that patients with ovarian cancer have better outcomes and better chances for survival when the largest amount possible of the tumor is removed.
The gynecologic oncology surgeons at MD Anderson are some of the most experienced in the nation. This gives them a level of expertise that is available at few other cancer centers.
We’re constantly researching newer and more advanced ovarian cancer treatment, including working to understand it on the molecular and genetic level. In some cases, we can offer gene therapy and targeted therapies that are available at only a few places in the nation.
We are proud to house a prestigious federally funded ovarian cancer SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) program. This means we are able to offer a wide variety of clinical trials for new therapies.
Ovarian Cancer Treatments
If you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This depends on several factors, including:
- The stage of the cancer
- The size of the tumor after surgery (debulking)
- Your desire to have children
- Your age and overall health
One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat ovarian cancer or help relieve symptoms.
Ovarian Cancer Surgery
Surgery is the main treatment for ovarian cancer. Often times, ovarian cancer surgery is done to remove or biopsy a mass to find out if it is cancer. Once cancer is confirmed, the surgeon stages the cancer based on how far it has spread from the ovaries. If the disease seems to be limited to one or both ovaries, the surgeon will biopsy the pelvis and abdomen to find out if the cancer has spread.
Debulking Ovarian Cancer
If it is obvious during the surgery that ovarian cancer has spread, the surgeon will remove as much of the tumor as possible. This may help other treatments work better.
The ovaries, uterus, cervix, Fallopian tubes and omentum (fatty tissue around these organs), and any other visible tumors in the pelvic and abdominal areas may be removed during debulking. The spleen, lymph nodes, liver or intestines also may be removed partially or completely. Sometimes debulking is not possible because the patient is not healthy enough or the tumor may be attached to other organs. In these cases, any tumor left will be treated with chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer
You may need chemotherapy after surgery to destroy ovarian cancer cells that are still in the body.
Intraperitoneal chemotherapy (IP therapy) for ovarian cancer is a way to give chemotherapy drugs. It may be used if a small amount of tumor is left after debulking. Sometimes IP chemotherapy works better than regular chemotherapy. In IP treatment, concentrated chemotherapy is put into the abdominal cavity through a catheter (tiny tube) or implanted port. This allows it to come into contact with the cancer and the area of the body where the cancer is likely to spread. The drugs also get into the blood and travel through the body.
Radiation for Ovarian Cancer
Although radiation therapy rarely is used to treat ovarian cancer, it may help destroy any cancer cells that are left in the pelvic area. It also may be used if the cancer has come back after other treatments. In most cases, the main goal of radiation therapy is to control symptoms such as pain, not to treat the cancer.
Ovarian Cancer Targeted Therapy
MD Anderson is among just a few cancer centers in the nation that are able to offer targeted therapy for some types of ovarian cancer. These new drugs stop the growth of cancer cells by interfering with certain proteins and receptors or blood vessels that supply the tumor with what it needs to grow.
Our Ovarian Cancer Clinical Trials
MD Anderson leads the nation in innovative research into the causes, prevention, detection and treatment of ovarian cancer. In fact, we are one of the few cancer centers in the nation to house a prestigious federally funded ovarian SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) program. This means we are able to offer a variety of clinical trials of new treatments for ovarian cancer.
Treatment at MD Anderson
Ovarian cancer is treated in our Gynecologic Oncology Center.
MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials offering
promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.
Find the latest news and information about ovarian cancer in our
Knowledge Center, including blog posts, articles, videos, news
releases and more.
Betty White helped doctors catch her ovarian cancer in its earliest stages by being
her own best advocate.
She first went to her gynecologist after she'd been experiencing continual fatigue and lower abdominal pain in 1997. But the first tests the doctor ran didn't raise any red flags.
When Betty's symptoms were still bothering her three months later, she underwent a laparoscopy and then a complete hysterectomy. At that point, the lab results showed high-grade serous and clear cell ovarian cancer -- "a rather surprise diagnosis," Betty recalls.
"You know your body better than anyone else, so you need to pay attention to what it's telling you so that you can talk to your doctor," she advises others. "No one realized it was going to be cancer, not even my gynecologist."
Receiving ovarian cancer treatment at MD Anderson
Once her ovarian cancer diagnosis was made, Betty's doctor referred her to MD Anderson, a place she'd grown to love while working here as a computer programmer until her daughter's birth in 1982.
"I already knew MD Anderson was a special place, but I'd never realized I'd need their services as well," she says.
For her ovarian cancer treatment, Betty underwent six courses of chemotherapy. She's been cancer-free ever since then and "continues to knock on wood every day."
Sharing hope with new ovarian cancer patients
Nearly 16 years after her ovarian cancer diagnosis, Betty still frequently makes the drive to MD Anderson from her home in the Houston suburbs.
But now she visits for another reason -- to give her time as a volunteer advocate in the Gynecologic Oncology Center, where she meets with new ovarian cancer patients two mornings a week.
"I remember what it was like to be a patient," Betty says. "That's why I'm here -- to help combat their fear and give them the hope I feel here."
High-grade serous ovarian cancer is one of the cancers MD Anderson
is focusing on as part of our Moon Shots Program to dramatically
reduce cancer deaths.
more about our Breast and Ovarian Cancer Moon Shot