by Pollock J

Chemotherapy (chemo) uses drugs to destroy ovarian cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body to the cancer cells. Chemo may be used:

  • Before surgery—to shrink the tumor
  • After surgery—to kill any remaining cancer cells and lower the risk of return
  • To help ease symptoms and lengthen survival—for cancer that has spread

Chemo may also be used with other treatments. Examples are radiation, other medicines, or hormone blocking therapy.

Chemotherapy Drugs and Delivery

There are a variety of chemo drugs. The choice and types of drugs used depend on the cancer. They are also based on the person's reaction to the drugs. Chemo drugs for ovarian cancer may include:

  • Carboplatin
  • Cisplatin
  • Paclitaxel
  • Docetaxel
  • Gemcitabine
  • Doxorubicin
  • Topotecan
  • Epirubicin
  • Bevacizumab

Chemo is usually given by IV. But some forms can be given by mouth as well. IV chemo is given in cycles (usually 3 to 6) over a period of time. For ovarian cancer, intraperitoneal chemo may be used. With this method, drugs are given through a catheter. They go directly into the belly cavity. The catheter port is inserted during laparoscopy. The port is anchored to a bone inside the belly area. Drugs can be injected through the skin and into the port.

A cancer doctor determines how many cycles of chemo are needed. The doctor also decides which drugs will work best.

Side Effects and Management

Chemo drugs target cancer cells. However, they can affect healthy cells too. The effects on cells can cause side effects. The doctor works to find the best drugs and dosage. The goal is to have the most impact on the cancer cells and the least effects on healthy tissue. Side effects from chemo may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of hunger
  • Problems thinking
  • Low blood cell counts (red cells, white cells, or platelets)—can lead to infection or bleeding
  • Early menopause —including symptoms and loss of fertility

A variety of treatments can help manage side effects. These include medicines, lifestyle changes, and alternative treatments. Sometimes, chemo may be adjusted to ease severe side effects. Addressing side effects early is best. This makes side effects more likely to be controlled. The person's discomfort will also not last as long.


Chemotherapy for advanced ovarian, fallopian tube and primary peritoneal carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 23, 2022.

Chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed March 23, 2022.

Ovarian cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 23, 2022.

Ovarian cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Accessed March 23, 2022

Ovarian epithelial, fallopian tube, nd primary peritoneal cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed March 23, 2022.

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