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Treatment - Ovarian cancer

Treatment for ovarian cancer

Treatment for ovarian cancer will depend on:

  • the size and type of ovarian cancer you have
  • where the cancer is
  • if it has spread
  • your general health

The main treatments are surgery and chemotherapy. Other treatments include targeted medicines and hormone treatments.

The specialist care team looking after you will:

  • explain the treatments, benefits and side effects
  • work with you to create a treatment plan that is best for you
  • talk to you about how treatment may affect you, for instance if there are any side effects

You'll have regular check-ups during and after any treatments. You may also have tests and scans.

If you have any symptoms or side effects that you are worried about, talk to your specialists. You do not need to wait for your next check-up.


The type of operation you have depends on your cancer and if it's spread.

Ovarian cancer is more treatable if it’s diagnosed early.

If your cancer is in the early stages (has not spread outside of your ovaries), you may have surgery to remove:

  • both ovaries and the fallopian tubes (bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy)
  • the opening to your womb from your vagina (cervix) and your womb (abdominal hysterectomy)

If the cancer has spread to other parts of your body, you may need more surgery to remove as much of it as possible.

This surgery may include removing parts of the bowel.


Chemotherapy is medicine that kills cancer cells.

It may be given before and after surgery, or it may be used on its own.

It may also be used for ovarian cancer that has come back.


Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays of radiation to kill cancer cells.

You may have radiotherapy for ovarian cancer to:

  • treat advanced cancer if other treatments are not right for you
  • help with symptoms, such as bleeding, pain or discomfort

Targeted therapies

Targeted therapies are medicines that only target things that help cancer cells to grow or survive.

They may be an option for some types of advanced ovarian cancer.

Hormone therapy

Some ovarian cancers need the hormone oestrogen to grow.

Hormone treatments can block the production of oestrogen to stop some cancers from growing. These medicines are rarely used.

Your doctor will tell you if hormone treatment is right for you, and how to check for and deal with any side effects.


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Ovarian cancer and fertility

Treatment for ovarian cancer in younger women can affect periods and fertility, which may mean you may not be able to have a baby.

What happens if you have been told your cancer cannot be cured

If you have advanced ovarian cancer, it might be very hard to treat. It may not be possible to cure the cancer.

If this is the case, the aim of your treatment will be to limit the cancer and its symptoms, and help you live longer.

You will be referred to a special team of doctors and nurses called the palliative care team or symptom control team.

They will work with you to help manage your symptoms and make you feel more comfortable. The clinical nurse specialist or palliative care team can also help you and your loved ones get any support you need.


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Page last reviewed: 24 January 2022
Next review due: 24 January 2025