What Is Recurrent Ovarian Cancer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Recurrent ovarian cancer is a case of ovarian cancer that returns after initially successful treatment. Patients with recurrent cancers have some treatment options to consider. The best choice will depend on the specifics of the cancer and the patient's case; sometimes medication may be very effective, for example, while in other cases it may not be possible to cure the cancer and the focus is on palliative care to reduce the patient's pain and suffering. Cancer relapse, where the condition appears after a patient thinks it is gone, can be emotionally stressful, and patients may find it helpful to see a psychologist for advice.

Abdominal bloating and abnormal bleeding may indicate the presence of ovarian cancer.
Abdominal bloating and abnormal bleeding may indicate the presence of ovarian cancer.

Some ovarian cancers are refractory, meaning that they continue to grow during treatment and never really respond to medications because of the type of cells involved. Others may respond to the medications, but fail to vanish entirely, reappearing shortly after treatment ends. Recurrent cancers represent a return of the growth after a patient was declared in remission, where the patient and care team thought the treatment was successful.

A doctor may not diagnose a case of recurrent ovarian cancer until it has spread beyond the original site of the tumor, and this can complicate treatment considerably. When a doctor identifies signs that a cancer has returned, he will usually ask for medical imaging studies and biopsies to learn more about what is happening. This information is useful for formulating a recurrent ovarian cancer treatment plan and discussing options with the patient.

One option may be a repeat surgery to remove cancerous cells, especially if the growth is still localized. The patient may also benefit from a new course of chemotherapy to attack the cancer. These options are most suitable for patients without advanced cases of recurrent ovarian cancer, as it may be possible to hit the cells effectively enough to halt the growth and keep the patient's cancer under control.

In an advanced case of recurrent ovarian cancer where the cancerous cells have spread well beyond the site of the original tumor, the goal of treatment may be to keep the patient comfortable. A doctor can recommend palliative chemotherapy or radiation to slow the growth of the cancer and prevent complications like cancer in the bones. The goal of the therapies here is not to cure the patient, but to suppress the cancer and slow its spread so the patient will experience less pain. Doctors may also recommend analgesic medications and other measures for patient comfort.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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