Ovarian cancer treatment

The main treatments for ovarian cancer are surgerychemotherapy and targeted therapy. These treatments may be used on their own, or in combination.

Treatment depends on the type of ovarian cancer you have, the stage of the cancer, your general health and fitness, your doctors’ recommendations, and whether you wish to have children.

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Treatment options by type of ovarian cancer


Surgery is the main treatment for all stages of epithelial ovarian cancer. The aim is to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Sometimes, additional treatment is needed.

• Stage I ovarian cancer is usually treated with surgery alone. Some women will be offered chemotherapy after surgery if there is a high risk of the cancer coming back.

• Stages II, III and IV are usually treated with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. New targeted therapy drugs are being offered to women with a BRCA mutation. In some cases, radiation therapy is offered.

Germ cell

This is usually treated with surgery and/or chemotherapy.

Stromal cell

This is usually treated with surgery, sometimes followed by chemotherapy or targeted therapy.

Borderline tumour

This is usually treated with surgery only.

Making treatment decisions

Sometimes it’s difficult to decide on the type of treatment to have. You may feel that everything is happening too fast.  Check with your doctor how soon your treatment should start, and take as much time as you can before making a decision.

Understanding the disease, the available treatments and possible side effects can help you weigh up the pros and cons of different treatments and make a well-informed decision that’s based on your personal values. You may also want to discuss the options with your doctor, friends and family.

You have the right to accept or refuse any treatment offered, to ask for more information, or to get a second opinion. In some cases, you may be able to take part in a clinical trial that is testing new or modified treatments.

You may be able to access new targeted therapy drugs to treat ovarian cancer through clinical trials. Talk with your doctor about the latest developments and whether you are a suitable candidate.

To find out more about decision-making steps, consent and second opinions, read our page on Making cancer treatment decisions.

Taking part in a clinical trial

Your doctor or nurse may suggest you take part in a clinical trial. Doctors run clinical trials to test new or modified treatments and ways of diagnosing disease to see if they are better than current methods. For example, if you join a randomised trial for a new treatment, you will be chosen at random to receive either the best existing treatment or the promising new treatment.

Over the years, trials have improved treatments and led to better outcomes for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

It may be helpful to talk to your specialist or clinical trials nurse, or to get a second opinion. If you decide to take part, you can withdraw at any time. For more information, see Clinical trials and research.

This information was last reviewed in April 2018
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