UChicago Medicine doctors have the necessary expertise to design the best treatment plans for ovarian cancer. Here, every patient’s case is reviewed at the multidisciplinary Gynecologic Oncology Tumor Board. This meeting brings together physicians in gynecologic oncology, medical oncology, pathology and radiology to evaluate cases, discuss treatment options and jointly plan the most effective course of treatment for each patient, which may include a discussion about clinical trials.

Therapy for ovarian cancer depends on the histology (microscopic structure of the tumor cells), grade of the tumor and the location (stage) of the disease. Initial treatment usually involves surgery or chemotherapy. In all cases, we take an aggressive approach to treating ovarian cancer, tailored to the individual needs of each patient.

Surgery is often recommended for women with ovarian cancer, especially those with advanced disease. Prior to surgery, our anesthesiologists meet with patients to discuss anesthesia during surgery and pain control after the procedure.

Whenever possible, our gynecologic oncologists use minimally invasive surgical techniques, including laparoscopic and robot-assisted surgery, to stage patients with early disease. For patients with metastatic disease, removing all visible disease in the abdomen (referred to as cytoreduction or debulking) has proven to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Surgery may include the removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovarian masses as well as the appendix and segments of the bowel, peritoneum (tissue that surrounds the abdominal organs) and omentum (a fat pad that covers the bowel). When appropriate, removal of other affected organs such as portions of the liver or spleen may be involved. Planning and performing these surgeries takes specialized expertise and our team coordinates every aspect of this process.

Chemotherapy for patients with advanced ovarian cancer may be administered through a combination of methods:

  • Intravenous (IV) chemotherapy — through a vein into the bloodstream
  • Intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy-delivered directly into the abdominal cavity
  • Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) — heated chemotherapy delivered directly into the abdominal (peritoneal) cavity during an operation. We are one of only a few medical centers in the Midwest to offer highly skilled expertise in HIPEC, where gynecologic oncologists work with surgical oncologists to remove all of the tumor.

Our trained chemotherapy nurses are highly skilled in delivering chemotherapy and in symptom management. As regional experts in intraperitoneal chemotherapy, our nurses regularly teach this method to other nurses in the area. UChicago Medicine is also actively involved in clinical trials designed to improve current chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.

Cancer treatment may affect the ability to become pregnant. Our gynecologic oncologists take this into account for each and every patient and proactively work to address these concerns. Our reproductive endocrinologists have special expertise in fertility preservation for cancer patients. We offer embryo and egg freezing (cryopreservation) as well as other strategies to preserve fertility before undergoing treatment.

Radiation therapy is occasionally used for isolated sites of recurrent disease. Our radiation oncologists are experts in delivering focused radiation therapy to metastatic disease that is not widespread. We have a number of novel clinical trials addressing the use of site directed radiation therapy in conjunction with immunotherapy.
HIPEC: Step-by-Step Video

View a step-by-step animation of how HIPEC works to kill cancer cells after surgery to remove abdominal cancers.

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