Ovarian cancer is cancer that forms in the ovaries, which are glands that produce eggs, found only in women.
Duke Cancer Institute's caregivers are dedicated to providing patients with the latest therapies to help them fight ovarian cancer. A team of physicians, nurses, social workers, and others provide comprehensive care in a setting that emphasizes emotional and educational support for patients and their families.
We also provide treatment for patients with recurrent ovarian cancer, including a number of clinical trials testing novel chemotherapy and targeted therapy treatments.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States -- approximately 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.
The team approach and state-of the-art imaging and diagnostic techniques used at the Duke Cancer Institute enable us to stage each patient’s cancer as precisely as possible, which is critical to selecting the most appropriate therapies.
Ovarian cancer often presents at an advanced stage. Because there is no approved screening test for ovarian cancer it can be difficult to detect in its early stages. However, when diagnosed and treated while the disease is localized, the five-year survival rate is 90 percent.
Ovarian cancer is often identified when a patient has a mass in the pelvis or abdominal swelling (distention). There are several types of ovarian cancer, and in many cases a laparotomy is needed for accurate diagnosis.
Laparotomy is a surgical procedure that allows the physician to look at all the organs in the pelvis and abdomen to see if they have any cancerous lesions or tumors. The doctor may surgically remove the cancer and organs during the procedure.
In some cases this procedure is performed laparoscopically, using a small incision in the abdomen, which facilitates faster recovery time for patients.
A number of other tests may be used to detect and diagnose ovarian cancer:
Your treatment options depend on the type and stage of ovarian cancer, as well as your general state of health and whether you want to have children in the future. Treatment commonly includes surgery and chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy is seldom used for the treatment of ovarian cancer. In some cases radiation therapy may be used to help relieve pain or treat other complications caused by the disease.
Surgery is used to both determine the stage of ovarian cancer and to treat it. It is important to receive treatment from a gynecologic oncologist who is experienced in these procedures.
For many women, surgery will involve removal of both ovaries, the uterus, the fallopian tubes, and nearby lymph nodes. All of these organs, as well as fluid from the abdominal cavity, will be examined for cancer cells to determine the stage of the cancer and the subsequent treatment.
Surgery will also involve debulking -- removing as much of the tumor as possible. This may require resection of portions of the intestine and other involved abdominal organs.
If the cancer is found during a very early stage, and you want to have children, the surgeon may be able to remove the cancer without removing your uterus and ovaries, or by removing only one ovary. However, this may not be possible for certain cancer types.
Most ovarian cancer patients treated at the Duke Cancer Institute receive chemotherapy after surgery to destroy any remaining cancerous cells in the body.
Most women will receive systemic chemotherapy, which is administered to the whole body either by taking a pill or receiving it in a vein, via an IV.
Some women with ovarian cancer may receive intraperitoneal chemotherapy, which involves injecting drugs directly into the abdominal cavity using a catheter. This type of chemotherapy can help women with ovarian cancer that has spread to the abdomen to live longer.
However, intraperitoneal chemotherapy has been shown to cause more side effects that systemic chemotherapy, so women who receive it should have good kidney function and be in good health.
The Duke Gynecologic Oncology Program is committed to clinical research that leads to state-of-the-art diagnostics and therapies for our patients. A wide range of clinical trials are ongoing that seek to improve diagnosis and treatment of gynecologic cancers.
Some of the treatments being tested include:
Learn how to make an appointment at the Duke Cancer Institute.