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Glossary on

Treatment for , ovarian and primary peritoneal cancer

Doctors base ovarian cancer treatment recommendations on several factors, including:

Treatment for , ovarian and primary peritoneal cancer usually involves a combination of the following:

Every treatment has potential risks and side effects. Before any new treatment or surgery, make sure your healthcare team tells you what to expect.


The goal of surgery for ovarian cancer is complete removal of the cancer.

  • If all the visible cancer is removed during surgery, this is known as optimal debulking. Surgery also helps your doctor learn if the cancer has spread.  
  • In some cases, chemotherapy is given before surgery to help make the tumor smaller to remove as much of the tumor as possible. This is known as neo-adjuvant chemotherapy. 


  • Treatment for ovarian cancer usually includes platinum chemotherapy. Two common examples are carboplatin and cisplatin.
  • A second type of chemotherapy, called a taxane, is usually combined with the platinum drug. Two common taxanes are paclitaxel and docetaxel.

Chemotherapy may be given in two different ways.

  • Intravenous (IV) chemotherapy is injected into a vein. 
  • Intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy is injected through a tube into the abdomen. Intraperitoneal therapy comes with additional side effects, and requires additional surgery to remove the port when chemotherapy is completed. 

Response to chemotherapy affects prognosis and can help guide treatment if the cancer comes back.  

  • Platinum-resistant cancers are those that do not shrink during platinum chemotherapy, or those cancers that initially respond, but come back within 6 months of treatment. 
  • Platinum-sensitive cancers respond to platinum treatment and do not recur for at least six months or longer.   

Timing of treatment

  • The first treatment regimen given is known as treatment. Most people with high-grade and/or advanced ovarian cancer will receive chemotherapy as treatment.
    • chemotherapy is given before surgery to treat some advanced cancers. The goal is to shrink the tumors to help the surgeon remove as much of the cancer as possible. 
    • The goal of chemotherapy after surgery is to prevent recurrence or to control the growth and spread of the cancer.
  • Some people with advanced ovarian cancer will also receive  or  as part of their post-surgery treatment. 
  • may be given to some people after they complete chemotherapy treatment to keep the cancer from coming back or growing. You can read more on .
  • People who have recurrence of their ovarian cancer after their initial treatment may receive additional chemotherapy,  or  depending on their initial response to treatment and the results of tumor  testing. This is known as second-line treatment. For people whose cancer comes back or doesn't respond to second-line treatment, additional lines of treatment may be given.  

Treatment side effects

Your healthcare team should explain what to expect from all treatments, including:

  • all of the possible risks and side effects of each treatment.
  • which side effects may be serious and how to tell. 
  • when and who you should call if you experience a side effect.
  • what can be done to treat or alleviate each side effect. 

Make sure you let your healthcare team know if you experience any side effects of your treatment. For more information about possible treatment side effects, see our section on Cancer Treatment by Treatment Type

Get Support
Get Support

The following organizations offer peer support services for people with or at high risk for ovarian cancer:

Paying For Care
Paying For Care

Paying for cancer treatment

The majority of public and private health insurance plans are required to cover cancer diagnosis and treatment; copays, coinsurance and deductibles often apply. Patient costs and coverage for specific doctors, facilities or treatments may vary based on your health plan. Visit our section on Insurance and Paying for Care: Treatment  for more information, links to sample appeal letters and other resources. 

If you need information about finding an insurance plan, watch our video: Choosing Wisely: How to Pick Insurance Plans.

Some pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs that help cover the cost for their medications: 

Organizations that offer co-pay assistance:

Other resources:

  • The American Cancer Society provides information and resources on covering the cost of cancer care. Public assistance, such as Medicaid may be available if you are ineligible for other programs. 
  • Needy Meds: Assistance programs to help patients with cost of medications and other healthcare.
  • Triage Cancer offers tools and resources to help individuals cope with the financial aspects of a cancer diagnosis.
Last updated January 04, 2024