If you are experiencing any unresolved symptoms of ovarian cancer, you should visit your general practitioner (GP).
Your GP will assess your symptoms, conduct a physical examination and arrange blood tests. Your results should be available within a week or so.
Your GP should also discuss your needs (including physical, psychological, social and information needs) and recommend sources of reliable information and support.
Treatment is best managed by a gynaecological oncologist who specialises in treating cancers of the reproductive tract and has very specialised surgical skills.
Ovarian Cancer Australia strongly recommends women are treated by a gynaecological oncologist. And your treatment will be managed by a team of cancer healthcare professionals. Each team member will have specialised skills to provide you with the best possible care during and after your treatment.
If you live in a rural or regional area, you may need to access visiting health professionals or access advice through linked phone and internet services. Many rural centres also have links to the centralised multidisciplinary meetings.
To find the names of individual gynaecological oncologists (many of whom work in multidisciplinary treatment centres), visit the Australian Society of Gynaecologic Oncologists website.
Planning your treatment
Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Less often, treatment may include radiotherapy. The type of treatment women receive depends on the type and stage of their ovarian cancer and their general health.
It is important to know not all women will have the same treatment for their ovarian cancer. Your doctor will work out your treatment based on the stage and grade of your cancer as well as what is best for you.
They will discuss all your treatment options in detail with you. They will discuss the benefits as well as the possible side effects. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it is important you understand all your options.
You may find the Optimal Care Pathway for ovarian cancer useful, as it maps the journey for patients undergoing diagnosis and treatment for ovarian cancer. The pathway aims to improve patient outcomes by providing consistent, safe, high quality and evidence-based practices to all women undergoing treatment.
Questions to ask your Healthcare Team
You may find the following list of questions helpful when thinking about what to ask your doctor about your treatment for ovarian cancer.
General treatment questions
- What stage of disease do I have?
- Has my cancer spread to other parts of my body? If so, how far?
- What type of treatment is available, what do you recommend and why?
- Are there any clinical trials suitable for me?
- What written information can you give me about these treatments?
- Will my treatment be given by a doctor who specialises in ovarian cancer?
- Can you arrange for me to have a second opinion?
- Am I eligible to have genetic testing?
- Is my surgery being performed by a gynaecological oncologist?
- What can I expect after the operation?
- Will I have a lot of pain with the operation? If so, is it easy to control the pain?
- Will the treatment affect my sexual feelings or relationship?
- How long will I need to take off work?
- When will I be able to drive?
- Will surgery affect my ability to have children? If so, can I preserve my fertility or eggs?
- How soon after surgery will I start chemotherapy?
- Will I have to stay in hospital for chemotherapy or will I be an outpatient?
- Which drugs will I have?
- How will the chemotherapy be given?
- What are the short-term and long-term side effects of this chemotherapy?
- Can I talk to a gynaecology oncology nurse?
Seeking a second opinion:
You may wish to ask for a second opinion from another gynaecological oncologist or medical oncologist at any time during your diagnosis or treatment. Getting a second opinion can help to clear up questions and concerns and allows you to choose which doctor you would prefer to manage your treatment. Most cancer specialists are used to their patients asking for a second opinion. They understand the importance of being sure you are getting the best treatment possible for your situation. So don’t be afraid to ask.