After your diagnosis, your doctor will develop your customized treatment plan. Women should always discuss their treatment options with a physician, because the best and most appropriate treatment will be different based on the stage of disease, the woman's age and the overall condition of her health.
There are three main treatment types for ovarian cancer:
1) Surgery - Surgery to remove the cancerous growth is the most common method of diagnosis and therapy for ovarian cancer. It is best performed by a qualified gynecologic oncologist.
2) Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer using chemicals (medications) that travel through the bloodstream to destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing both in and outside the ovaries. Chemotherapy is used in the majority of cases as a follow-up therapy to surgery.
3) Radiation Therapy - Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors (only rarely used in the treatment of ovarian cancer in the United States).
To help a woman decide which course of treatment is best for her, the American Cancer Society uses The Profiler Treatment Option Tool for Ovarian Cancer. This tool is free and you may access it by clicking on the following link: www.wellspan.org/body.cfm?id=428
Complementary therapies are diverse practices and products that are used in conjunction with conventional medicine. Many women have tried and benefited from the following complementary therapies. You might want to speak with other women with cancer or your healthcare team to see which therapies they found most helpful or might work best for you and your lifestyle.
Acupuncture - An ancient Chinese method of healing in which small sterilized needles are inserted into the body's energy centers to promote healing.
Aromatherapy - The use of essential oils from flowers, herbs and trees to promote health and well being.
Herbal Medicine - Use of remedies using plant parts to treat symptoms and illnesses. (Consult your healthcare professional prior to using herbal medicine).
Massage - Manipulating the body's muscle and connective tissue through rubbing, kneading and patting to promote relaxation and well being.
Meditation - Conscious relaxation and focused breathing to relax the mind and body.
Qi Gong (chee-GUNG) - A type of Chinese medicine that combines movement, meditation and breathing to enhance the flow of qi (an ancient term given to what is believed to be vital energy) in the body, improve blood circulation and enhance immune function.
Stress Reduction - Use of stress reduction methods such as exercise, meditation, etc. which have been found to be beneficial in reducing cancer progression and recurrence.
Yoga, Tai Chi - Postures, movements and breathing exercises to strengthen and heal the body, mind and spirit.
Safe Use of Complementary Therapy
There are questions about most complementary therapies that have not yet been answered through well-designed scientific studies, such as clinical trials. Before beginning any complementary therapy, it is important to discuss the approach with your healthcare team and complementary therapy practitioner.
Complementary vs. Alternative Medicine
People are often confused about the difference between complementary therapies and alternative medicine. As discussed in this section, complementary medicine makes use of non-conventional therapies such as acupuncture, yoga and meditation. Alternative medicine, on the other hand, refers to a treatment method that is used in place of standard treatment. By definition, alternative treatments are not integrated as part of conventional medicine.
Caution should be given to alternative treatments which you might combine with standard therapies. It is important that you discuss all medications you are taking with your physician.
More information about complementary and alternative treatments can be found in the Ovarian Cancer Guide to Quality of Life Issues and can be ordered by calling 1-888-OVARIAN (1-888-682-7426).