Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Ovarian Cancer

Our Services - Ovarian Cancer

If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you are not alone. Ovarian cancer, the growth of abnormal cells in the female hormone-producing organs known as the ovaries, is the eighth leading form of cancer in women, with approximately 20,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States according to the American Cancer Society. Data from the Texas Cancer Registry suggests that between 200 and 300 cases are diagnosed yearly in the Houston area alone.

A diagnosis of ovarian cancer can be terrifying. However, the number of annually diagnosed cases has declined in the past two decades, and survival rates have improved, thanks to advances in research and technology. The Methodist Hospital is at the forefront of ovarian cancer therapy, thanks to experienced physicians, revolutionary treatment options and ground-breaking clinical trial. The high quality care offered by Methodist Obstetrics and Gynecology Group greatly improves your chance of living a long and healthy life after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Our nationally recognized physicians and innovative support services provide complete care for both you and your loved ones – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Please read on to learn more about some of the leading-edge treatment options offered by Methodist, including therapies for complications of ovarian cancer. Your physician will work closely with you to determine which course of therapy is best for you.

Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy

This treatment involves the administration of chemotherapy directly to the peritoneum, the tissue which lines the abdominal cavity, through the use of a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. The method is used along with traditional intravenous chemotherapy. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy has been proven by the Gynecologic Oncology Group to be especially effective upon advanced cases of ovarian cancer, extending survival rates by approximately a year longer than intravenous chemotherapy alone.

Maintenance Chemotherapy

Used to prevent a rapid recurrence of cancer, maintenance chemotherapy consists of a long-term, lower-dose chemotherapy following initial chemotherapy treatment, usually administered monthly. Because of the use of less chemotherapy medicine, this treatment is generally better-tolerated by patients than high-dose chemotherapy, particularly those who have also received intraperitoneal chemotherapy. Its use is still a topic of debate among many doctors, however, as there have been few studies on its effectiveness as part of a cancer treatment regimen. Therefore, it is used somewhat infrequently for ovarian cancer compared to other forms of chemotherapy.

Clinical Trials for Ovarian Cancer

As part of a world-class facility engaged in constant research, Methodist Obstetrics and Gynecology Group offers the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of improved surgical and medical treatments for ovarian cancer. Please click here for information on our current clinical trials. If you are interested in being a candidate for one of these trials, please talk to your physician and contact Dr. Carol Hodgson at 713-441-6616 to find out if you meet the criteria for participation.

We invite you to learn more about our clinical trials, including the types of trials we conduct, the benefits of participation and our commitment to patient safety.

Surgical Debulking

This procedure involves removing parts of a tumor in order to make the remaining cancer cells more receptive to chemotherapy and/or radiation, while also relieving some of the symptoms created by larger tumor masses. A large ovarian tumor may cause symptoms such as abdominal and lower back pain, bloating, urinary urgency and digestive upsets or obstructions as it pushes on and disrupts other pelvic organs. The removal of parts of the tumor leaves an oncologist with a smaller mass to treat, and relieves pain for the patient. Surgical debulking is most often used in advanced cancer cases along with removal of affected body structures (such as the ovaries or uterus), although studies have shown that it may be effective in many applications.

Multidisciplinary Approach to Ovarian Cancer Treatment

After a diagnosis of cancer, you may be overwhelmed by all the steps to be taken and specialists to see on your road to wellness. Methodist’s multidisciplinary care helps you – and those who are treating you – by creating a cancer care “team” working and communicating closely with each other. Your team will be composed of your physicians, oncologists and specialists as well as those providing emotional and spiritual care (such as therapists and chaplains). As a group, your caregivers are able to not only devise the best possible treatment plan for your needs, but they can provide an ever-important means of support to you in your treatment and recovery.

Maintenance Therapy for Ovarian Cancer

In order to decrease the chances of your cancer recurring, you may be put on maintenance therapy. This could consist of any combination of treatments, along with maintenance chemotherapy, as part of an ongoing therapy plan.

Recurrent Ovarian Cancer

Unfortunately, after a period of remission, ovarian cancer may recur. Early initial detection may be a help in preventing recurring ovarian cancer, as it is easier to treat when the cancer has not spread from the ovaries. However, as most ovarian cancer is still not diagnosed until it is in a later stage, treatments must focus not only on eliminating the cancer, but also preventing its return.
Recent studies have been performed regarding treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer, many of which show great promise. In fact, the average post-cancer survival time doubled in the 1990s and has continued to increase since 2000. The Methodist Hospital is a leader in recurrent ovarian cancer research, through revolutionary treatments and clinical trials.

Malignant Ascites

A potential complication of breast, abdominal or gynecological cancers is the development of malignant ascites, which can cause a great deal of pain and fatigue and inhibit the success of cancer treatment. Ascites is a buildup of fluid within the abdominal area (specifically, the peritoneal cavity) which can be a side effect of many conditions. When ascites is caused by cancer growth - which can irritate the peritoneal cavity's lining or block the normal functions of the lymphatic system, causing the fluid buildup - it is referred to as malignant ascites.

Treatment usually involves palliative care, a form of care for those with serious illnesses aimed at the reduction of uncomfortable physical effects of these conditions. In the case of malignant ascites, this palliative care includes drainage of the fluid, usually through the use of a catheter called an ascitic tube. The careful monitoring given to cancer patients by the physicians of The Methodist Hospital is an important part of diagnosing and managing malignant ascites effectively, and clinical trials offer a chance for patients to be involved in exploring enhanced treatment options.

Treatment for Peritoneal and Fallopian Tube Cancers

Although it is very rare for cancer to develop on its own in the peritoneum (the tissue lining the inside of the abdominal cavity) or the fallopian tubes (tubes through which eggs travel from the ovaries to the uterus), ovarian cancer can sometimes metastasize, or spread, to these areas. The Methodist Obstetrics and Gynecology Group is currently conducting a trial of the ChemoFx Assay, a laboratory test to determine how well individual participants’ tumors respond to sensitive chemotherapy medications. For more information about the ChemoFx Assay clinical trial, please click here.

Genetic Screening for BRCA-1 and BRCA-2

Although genetic testing is relatively new (and not yet useful for many people in terms of disease prediction), there is evidence that some individuals may benefit from genetic testing on two genes known as BRCA-1 and BRCA-2. Mutations in these genes may be responsible for hereditary forms of breast and/or ovarian cancer, especially in certain ethnic populations.

Those who have a definite family link – such as more than one close relative (e.g. a mother and a sister) diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer before age 50 or many cases of breast and/or ovarian cancer among relatives – may choose, on the advice of their physician, to undergo this genetic screening. As with all genetic testing, this screen is only recommended for those in the high risk group. While the results cannot predict with complete certainty whether or not a mutation will develop into breast or ovarian cancer, they may help determine whether or not preventive surgical or medical intervention might be of a benefit to you.