There is no such thing as a silly question, especially after receiving a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Speaking up and asking questions about your health, cancer treatment options and the overall care process can help you gain clarity during an uncertain time and better understand your disease. A few basic but important questions to ask following an ovarian cancer diagnosis include:
What type of ovarian cancer do I have?
Ovarian cancers are named according to the type of cell the cancer originated in. The main types of ovarian cancer include epithelial cell tumors (in the outer layer of the ovaries), germ cell tumors (in the ova or eggs) and stromal cell tumors (in the hormone-producing connective tissues). Epithelial tumors make up about 85% to 95% of all ovarian cancers.
Has the cancer spread outside of my ovaries?
Ovarian cancer treatment will depend on many factors, including if and how far the cancer has spread outside of the ovaries. This is referred to as the cancer’s stage. Ovarian cancers are staged from 1 to 4, with stage 4 being the most advanced and widely spread (metastasized).
What are my treatment options?
Each woman’s ideal course of ovarian cancer treatment will vary according to the cancer’s type and stage as well as the patient’s age, overall health and care preferences. Generally speaking, treatment most often begins with surgery to remove (debulk) the tumor or one or both ovaries. Surrounding structures may also be surgically removed, including the fallopian tubes, uterus and cervix.
Surgery is often paired with chemotherapy—a systemic treatment that may be used to shrink tumors prior to surgery or to attack cancer cells that have spread beyond the ovaries. Chemotherapy involves delivering cancer-fighting medications to the patient’s bloodstream either orally or intravenously. Immunotherapy, which utilizes the patient’s immune system to fight cancer, is another treatment that is showing promising results in some patients with ovarian cancer.
Will treatment affect my fertility?
While fertility preservation is possible for some women with early-stage ovarian cancers, treatment that involves surgically removing both ovaries, the uterus or the fallopian tubes will make natural pregnancy impossible. A woman of child-bearing age should speak with her physician about how ovarian cancer treatment will impact her ability to become pregnant and what options may be available to her, such as cryopreservation and surrogacy.
Other questions to ask after an ovarian cancer diagnosis
Of course, these aren’t the only questions you should pose to your physician after an ovarian cancer diagnosis. Here are other important questions to consider asking:
- What treatments do you recommend and why?
- Where can I receive a second opinion?
- What is the main goal of treatment?
- How can I prepare for treatment?
- What are the risks of treatment, and how can I reduce possible side effects?
- How will treatment impact my daily life, including work?
- Are there cancer or treatment symptoms that require immediate medical attention?
- Can I exercise during treatment?
- Should I make changes to my diet during treatment?
- What can I do to support my mental health during treatment?
- What if I need in-home care or support during treatment?
- Should I participate in a clinical trial?
If you’re curious about topics that aren’t listed above, write your questions and concerns down and ask your physician at your next appointment.
Moffitt’s approach to ovarian cancer treatment
Moffitt Cancer Center’s gynecological clinic is home to a multispecialty team that focuses exclusively on ovarian cancers. If you would like to discuss your ovarian cancer treatment options with an oncologist or receive a second or third opinion, contact Moffitt at 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. Our team is here to answer any questions you may have and prioritizes prompt response times.