There are three main treatments for ovarian cancer, once
a diagnosis is made. These are surgery, chemotherapy, and
radiation. In some cases it will be recommended to have two
or even all three of these treatments. When chemotherapy is
recommended, it is usually given after the surgery in 6
doses spaced 3 weeks apart. This is called "first line"
because it is the first time chemo is administered.
The chemotherapy drugs are injected intravenously, often
by way of a port which your oncologist will place in your
chest or arm. Sometimes intraperitoneal chemo is used which
injects the drugs directly into the abdomen.
The standard initial therapy suggested by doctors uses a
combination of a platinum-based drug such as carboplatin or
cisplatin along with a taxane such as paclitaxel or
Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells that are left in
your body after surgery, but they also damage normal cells,
as the drugs do not differentiate between normal and
diseased. The simple explanation is that they work by
destroying rapidly-dividing cells which is a description of
cancer cells. Unfortunately, other cells in the body also
fall under this category and are also damaged in the
process. The hair follicles are an example, which is why
most patients experience hair loss. It is only a temporary
condition though and the hair will begin to grow back
almost immediately after the chemo is stopped, although in
some cases it will look different at first. Other healthy
cells that are damaged include red and white blood cells,
platelets (which are needed for clotting), and cells that
line the gastrointestinal tract. This can often cause the
nausea which is so common with the treatment.
Because the chemo drugs can damage the bone marrow that
normally produce cells, patients can experience low blood
cell counts and often must take yet another medication to
encourage the bone marrow to begin producing cells again.
The combination of all of these drugs sometimes causes
people to have mild forgetfulness and memory loss often
referred to as "chemo brain." This should go away once