Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian cancer is cancer that grows from the ovaries.

The signs of ovarian cancer such as back pain, bloating and an irregular period are quite general. This means ovarian cancer is sometimes found late.

Radiation Therapy and Ovarian Cancer

The best person to talk to about radiation therapy for ovarian cancer is a radiation oncologist. A radiation oncologist is a specialist doctor who is part of the team that takes care of people having radiation therapy.

You can ask your doctor for a referral to a radiation oncologist to learn if radiation therapy is an option for you.

The Treatment Team

Doctors make a treatment plan for each person based on:

  • the type of cancer
  • where the cancer is
  • other treatments tried
  • the person’s health.

The type of treatment a person gets is worked out by a team of doctors and health professionals often called a Multidisciplinary Team.

A highly trained radiation oncology team takes care of people having radiation therapy. This includes radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, medical physicists and radiation oncology nurses.

Treatments for Ovarian Cancer

Doctors mainly use surgery and chemotherapy to treat ovarian cancer. The treatment team may also offer radiation therapy on the pelvis or any other areas the cancer has spread to.

Palliative radiation therapy can help if the cancer is causing pain or heavy bleeding.

Types of Radiation Therapy Used for Ovarian Cancer

External beam radiation therapy is the most common type of radiation therapy used for ovarian cancer.

People may get radiation therapy for ovarian cancer over a few weeks, with daily treatments from Monday to Friday.

However, the number of treatments and length may vary based on how well a person is responding and their situation.

General Information about Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is more effective with fewer side effects than ever before.

Recent advances mean radiation oncologists can effectively treat the cancer while getting less radiation on healthy body parts. This means much fewer side effects.

Side effects from radiation therapy vary between people, even for those having the same treatment.

While some people feel no side effects, some feel mild side effects, such as tiredness or skin redness during and/or just after treatment. These usually get better within a few weeks.

The treatment team will offer advice and medicine to help with side effects.

Serious side effects that start later (months to years after the radiation therapy) are rare.

Before starting treatment, your radiation oncologist will talk to you about side effects and answer your questions.

The side effects of radiation treatment can be split into 2 groups:

  1. Early side effects which occur during and shortly after radiation treatment.
  2.  Late side effects which can occur months to years after radiation treatment.

For more information, go to the Potential Side Effects page.

Short-term side effects from radiation therapy for ovarian cancer can include:

Skin irritation: The skin around the treated area may become red, dry, or itchy, this can feel like sunburn.

Fatigue: Feeling tired is common during radiation treatment, as the body works to heal.

Diarrhoea: Radiation can upset the digestive tract. This can lead to loose or watery poo.

Nausea and vomiting: Some people may feel unwell in the stomach or vomiting.

Urinary discomfort: Radiation near the pelvic area can cause discomfort or a need to pee more often.

Hair loss: Radiation will only cause hair loss in the treated area.

These side effects are usually short term and can be helped with medications or lifestyle changes. The treatment team can provide advice to help you manage side effects.

Late side effects vary between people and can happen a few months to a few years after treatment.

These side effects may never occur, occur once, continue over time, or come and go.

Bowel problems: Radiation therapy can cause long-term bowel issues such as diarrhea, constipation, or changes in bowel habits.

Sexual dysfunction: Both radiation therapy and surgery can affect sexual function. This can cause vaginal dryness and discomfort. Doctors may offer a vaginal dilator to help with this.

Urinary problems: Radiation therapy may cause long-term urinary problems, such as needing to pee more often or more urgently. Rarely it causes incontinence.

Lymphoedema: Surgery or radiation therapy can damage lymph nodes, leading to lymphoedema, which is swelling in the legs due to a build-up of lymph fluid.

Femoral neck or pelvic fracture: This is very rare and is when a bone in the pelvis fractures due to reduce strength.

Radiation induced small bowel obstruction.

Impaired fertility or infertility: It’s important to talk about fertility preservation before treatment starts.

Second cancers: There is an extremely small risk of developing secondary cancers later in life.

People treated for ovarian cancer should see their doctor regularly and keep an eye out for long-term side effects.

Find additional information about cancer types, research groups, and support groups.

Further Information
You can ask your Surgeon or General Practitioner for a referral to a Radiation Oncologist for a discussion about whether radiation therapy is a suitable treatment option for you.

Radiation Oncologist

The best person to talk to is a radiation oncologist. You can ask your doctor for a referral to find out if radiation treatment is right for you.

GPs and Health Professionals

Information for any health professional involved in a patient's cancer care with a particular focus on primary care providers.

Talking to Your Doctor

Your GP or other doctors in the cancer team can organise a referral to a radiation oncologist.

Treatment Centres

Search and find your closest Radiation Oncology Treatment Centre.

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