What You Should Know About Chemo Infusion for Ovarian Cancer - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on July 02, 2013

What You Should Know About Chemo Infusion for Ovarian Cancer

Years ago, ovarian cancer was known as the “silent killer,” since symptoms were often vague and difficult to recognize.

Since that time, advancements in the way we can identify women at risk and treat ovarian cancer have made it easier to detect symptoms early on and increase women’s chances of survival. Additionally, doctors continue to research ways to extend lives. One recent study in particular has found that chemotherapy administered through the abdomen can potentially increase a woman’s life span by three years. But although this may be true, there’s more to it than meets the eye.

While a treatment plan depends on the stage and type of ovarian cancer, the most common ways to treat it are with surgery and chemotherapy; chemo is usually injected into the body intravenously or directly into the abdomen where the cancer is present.

“The theory is that if the cancer is in the abdomen, it sounds like a great idea to give chemo directly there as well,” said Joel Noumoff, M.D., chief of Gynecologic Oncology at Crozer-Keystone Health System. “Of course, the cancer can spread outside of the abdomen, and chemo is needed to get to these other areas.”

Ideally, chemo that is infused abdominally is most effective if the cancer is limited to the abdomen, and surgery has been performed to reduce the size of the tumor to an acceptable standard.

According to Noumoff, chemotherapy works best on small, superficial tumors, since it’s difficult for the drugs to reach the deeper areas of large malignant masses.

“That’s why we usually operate on the patient first to remove as much of the cancer as possible, so the chemo can take care of whatever’s left behind,” Noumoff said.

Even then, however, the high concentration of chemotherapy and the catheter used to inject the drug into the abdomen can do more harm than good for some patients.

“There are potential complications when chemo is administered this way, and it’s associated with infection, increased morbidity, greater toxicity, and greater side effects,” said Dr. Noumoff. Although doctors have become more experienced and have reduced complications, the problems haven’t been completely eliminated. Worsened side effects can include nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, and abdominal pain.

The best way to increase your chances of living a longer life and beating ovarian cancer is to avoid it and find out if you’re at high risk for the disease. The earlier cancer is detected, the more effective treatment might be. Since symptoms of ovarian cancer can often be misidentified as another problem, you should discuss with your doctor if you have a family history of ovarian cancer, or if you’re experiencing frequent symptoms, including:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Discomfort
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Urinary Discomfort
  • Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full
  • Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling, or bloating
  • Changes in bowel and/or bladder habits
  • Increased abdominal girth

For more information about Crozer-Keystone Cancer Services, visit http://ckcancer.crozerkeystone.org. Joel Noumoff, M.D., can be reached at (610) 876-9640.

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