Ovarian cancer: Abdominal chemotherapy offers new hope

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Ovarian cancer: Abdominal chemotherapy offers new hope

Abdominal chemotherapy can improve survival for women with advanced ovarian cancer.

What happened? A new study reports that injecting chemotherapy drugs directly into the abdominal cavity boosts survival for women with advanced ovarian cancer by about one year. The study results were promising enough that the National Cancer Institute is urging doctors to begin using abdominal chemotherapy in addition to intravenous chemotherapy after surgery for ovarian cancer — an unusual step meant to publicize the positive effects of abdominal chemotherapy.

Abdominal chemotherapy uses two generic drugs widely used for ovarian cancer — cisplatin and paclitaxel (Taxol). The difference is the abdominal infusion, which exposes hard-to-reach cancer cells in the abdominal cavity with higher levels of chemotherapy drugs than can be reached intravenously.

Treatment typically involves six rounds of both intravenous and abdominal chemotherapy. Severe side effects — including abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and infection — may leave many women unable to complete a full course of treatment or others to forego treatment entirely. But even an incomplete course of treatment can help women live longer.

What does this mean to you? Fifty percent of women with ovarian cancer die within five years of the diagnosis. But abdominal chemotherapy may improve those odds.

If you have ovarian cancer, ask your doctor about abdominal chemotherapy. Your doctor can help you weigh the benefits and risks — including serious side effects — to determine if abdominal chemotherapy is appropriate for you.

Last Updated: 01/06/2006
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