Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body in order to kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is usually injected or infused into a vein, but some forms can be given by mouth. Your medical oncologist will tell you how many cycles or courses of chemotherapy are best for you. In most cases, chemotherapy is given after surgery for 6 cycles, although recent data suggests that as few as 3 cycles of chemotherapy may be as good as 6 cycles, which means fewer side effects. In some cases, chemotherapy may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor.
The side effects and amount of time required in your doctor’s office depend on the type of chemotherapy you receive, as well as how many cycles you receive and how often. The most common chemotherapy-associated side effects are:
Paclitaxel combined with cisplatin or carboplatin is a favored regimen for treating epithelial cell ovarian cancer. It produces complete disease regression in about a quarter of patients with Stage III disease.
Possible side effects include:
Cisplatin and Carboplatin
Cisplatin is used alone for certain ovarian cancers and in combination with either Cyclophosphamide or paclitaxel to treat advanced disease. Cisplatin is also a member of the BEP regimen for germ cell cancers. The regimen includes bleomycin, etoposide, and cisplatin (platinum). Due to its lower toxicity, carboplatin is being tested as a substitute for cisplatin in this combination.
Possible side effects of these medications include:
Etoposide is the second member of the BEP regimen for germ cell cancers.
Possible side effects of this medication include:
Cyclophosphamide may be combined with cisplatinum to treat advanced disease. Cyclophosphamide interferes with the growth of cancer cells, which are eventually destroyed. Since cyclophosphamide may also affect the growth of normal body cells, other effects will also occur. Cyclophosphamide is given either by mouth or by injection.
Possible side effects of cyclophosphamide include:
Doxorubicin is used in combination treatments for very advanced or resistant cancer. Doxorubicin seems to interfere with the growth of cancer cells, which are then eventually destroyed by the body. Since the growth of normal body cells may also be affected by doxorubicin, other effects will also occur. Doxorubicin is given as an injection.
Possible side effects of doxorubicin include:
Topotecan is used in combination treatments for very advanced, resistant, or recurrent cancer. Topotecan inhibits an enzyme topoisomerase I, causing DNA damage to tumor cells. It is commonly given intravenously daily for 5 days every 3 weeks.
Possible side effects of topotecan include:
Docetaxel is similar to paclitaxel and is a semisynthetic compound derived from yew plants. It is commonly given intravenously every three weeks, often with corticosteroids to prevent problems with sensitivity to the medication.
Possible side effects of docetaxel include:
Ovarian cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003130-pdf.pdf. Accessed January 3, 2014.
Ovarian cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900705/Ovarian-cancer. Updated May 6, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian/patient/ovarian-epithelial-treatment-pdq#section/_156. Accessed January 3, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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