You're Never Alone. We're in This Fight Together.
Ovarian Cancer Care at Allegheny Health Network
Ovarian cancer is a growth of abnormal malignant cells that affects the ovaries – reproductive glands that produce eggs. But what it most often strikes first is a women’s heart – not physically, but emotionally.
At the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, we understand that an ovarian cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. That’s why you receive care from expert doctors who us the most innovative treatments tailored to curing your cancer, while also minimizing the effects to the rest of your body while maximizing your optimal health.
In the fight of your life, we make sure you receive only the highest quality of care.
Our gynecologic oncology surgeons utilize the very latest surgical techniques, including debulking, and other related technologies. And with the strength of our vigorous research programs, you also have direct access to the latest innovative clinical trials and therapies.
Our cancer care team, along with your 24/7 Care Navigator will coordinate a personalized treatment plan for you, supporting your challenges, helping you better manage your emotions, listening to your concerns and strengthening your overall well-being. Together, we can help you discover an inner strength that will help you get through this journey.
Click on the links below to learn more about the symptoms and how we diagnose and treat ovarian cancer at the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute.
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
Ovarian cancer is not the silent killer it is was once thought to be. Today there’s common agreement that while there still is no diagnostic tool to screen for ovarian cancer, there are certain recognizable symptoms that can be persistent and represent an abnormal physical change. The overall frequency and number of symptoms can be key in making a diagnosis. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain; in some cases this pain can be severe
- Difficulty eating or a feeling of feeling full quickly
- Urgent or frequent urinary symptoms
Other commonly reported symptoms include:
- Frequent fatigue and indigestion
- Back pain
- Pain with intercourse
- Menstrual irregularities
It’s important that if you experience any of these symptoms that you call your doctor or gynecologist, especially if you have these symptoms more than 12 times during the course of any given month and/or if these symptoms are new or are atypical for you.
Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer
If you are concerned that you may be experiencing the symptoms often associated with ovarian cancer it is important that you seek out medical help.
Here at the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, you doctor will first take into account your family’s medical history and perform a physical exam and blood test.
Our advanced diagnostic tests for ovarian cancer may also include:
- Internal pelvic examination. This office examination is where a doctor inspects your cervix and vagina and feels for any unusual lumps or changes in the area of your uterus or ovaries.
- Pap test. This microscopic and biochemical examination of secretions, collected from your cervix, is used to detect changes that may be cancer, or may lead to cancer currently show some noncancerous conditions, such as infection or inflammation.
- Dilation and curettage (D & C). This minor operation of your cervix removes a tissue sample from the cervical canal and uterine lining. Once removed, the tissue is examined under a microscope for abnormal cells.
- Transvaginal ultrasound. In this procedure a small instrument is inserted into your vagina. Using sound waves an image of your uterus and ovaries is created so that doctors s can look for abnormal conditions.
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). This procedure uses an electric wire loop to obtain a piece of tissue so it can be examined under a microscope for abnormal cells.
- Cone biopsy. This procedure removes some tissue from the inside of your cervix to look for abnormal cells.
- Colposcopy. This test uses a specialized telescope to look more closely at an area of abnormal tissue on your cervix, vagina, or vulva.
- Biopsy. This procedure, which looks for abnormal cells, removes a small amount of tissue to for examination under a microscope.
- CA-125 test. This tumor marker is often found to be elevated in the blood of women with ovarian cancer. The CA-125 test is used to monitor the progress of cancer treatment. However, it is not useful as a screening test because non-cancer problems can also cause the marker to be elevated.
- Endocervical curettage (ECC). This procedure makes use of a narrow instrument called a curette to collect tissue samples that line the endocervical canal. This type of biopsy is often completed along with a colposcopy.
- Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan). Using a combination of X-rays and a computer, this procedure produces cross-sectional, horizontal and vertical images (often called slices) that show details of the bones, muscles, fat and organs.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using powerful magnets and radio waves, MRIs create detailed images of organs and specific areas within the body.
- Positron Emission Tomography-Computed Tomography (PET-CT). This advanced imaging technique combines the functional activity of PET with the structural anatomy of CT for cancer staging and radiation treatment planning.
Treating Ovarian Cancer
At the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, our team of doctors and surgeons, radiation and medical oncologists, ensure that you have access to the highest quality of care available, including every possible treatment, procedure and clinical trial best suited to improve your overall well-being.
Our extensive treatment options include:
The Cancer Institute's gynecological oncology surgeons utilize the latest techniques and technologies and are among the most experienced in the country when perform cytoreduction, or debulking surgery. This expertise ensures the best possible outcome from your treatment, while minimizing the possible risk of complications, overall recovery time, and impact to your well-being.
Our advanced surgical options for ovarian cancer include:
- Cytoreduction (debulking) surgery. This aggressive surgery completely removes all visible cancerous tissues, even those cancerous tissues that are microscopic in size.
- Laser surgery. Using of a powerful beam of light, which can be directed to specific parts of your body – without making a large incision – this surgery destroys abnormal cells.
- Hysterectomy. This surgery involves the removal of your uterus. Depending on the situation, it can be removed through an abdominal incision, through the vagina, or using laparoscopic techniques. Our surgeons utilize the most advanced laparoscopic approaches, including the daVinci robot. Robotic surgery now gives the surgeon an excellent view and allows for very fine, precise movements through small incisions in your abdomen.
- D&C hysteroscopy. This procedure inspects your uterine canal through an endoscope. It is often performed to diagnose and treat abnormal uterine bleeding. Your surgeon may perform a dilation and curettage (D&C) at the same time, removing tissue samples from the uterus.
- Laparoscopy. This surgical procedure is where specialized instruments are used to make small incisions to operate on the abdomen.
- Radical surgery. This surgery involves removing an organ, and/or other tissues, that may be affected by cancer within the same region. Our surgeons perform radical abdominal operations for cancer of all of the gynecologic organs.
- Vulvectomy. This procedure involves removing all or part of your vulva, depending on the location of the cancer.
- Oophorectomy. This surgery involves removing one or both of your ovaries.
- Salpingo-oophorectomy. This procedure removes your fallopian tubes and ovaries.
- Vaginectomy. This radical procedure involves the removal of your vagina.
- Lymph-node staging. This surgical procedure involves the removal of tissue that might be affected by cancer and is often done at the same time as radical surgery.
- Reconstructive surgery. This surgery involves the restoration of tissue that might have been affected by cancer or anticancer therapy.
- Risk-reducing surgery. Often performed by removing the fallopian tubes and ovaries, this surgery is for women with a high risk of cancer in these organs due to genetic factors or family history. It is usually done with laparoscopy.
Radiation Therapy is often used in combination with surgery to shrink and destroy cancer cells. Along with your doctor, you can decide what course of treatment will be most beneficial as it relates to your overall diagnosis.
Here at the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute we use state-of-the-art technology, including advanced computer software and imaging, to administer high–dose radiation beams directly to a tumor, minimizing your overall exposure.
As the only radiation oncology network accredited in western Pennsylvania by both the American Society for Radiation Oncology and American College of Radiology, you can feel assured knowing you are receiving the highest quality care available. This accreditation means that the Cancer Institute at Allegheny Health Network meets specific guidelines for patient safety, quality control, and efficiency of equipment.
Our advanced radiation treatments for lung cancer include:
- Image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT). The procedure uses frequent imaging to delivery precise and accurate radiation therapy. With this technology, physicians can image a tumor immediately before or during radiation treatment, making necessary adjustments as needed for precise tumor targeting and minimal harm to surrounding healthy tissue.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). This therapy uses sophisticated computer technology to map the precise dimensions and density of cancerous tumors. Afterward, virtual treatment simulations are performed, and with minimal harm to surrounding healthy tissue, the radiation dose's shape and intensity is conformed to the simulation's exact parameters.
- Brachytherapy (high-dose and low-dose rate). This type of internal radiation delivers specific doses of radiation from seeds or pellets implanted close to, or inside of, a tumor. This treatment is typically given as an outpatient over one to five days but can also be performed during surgery. It ensures that the maximum radiation dose is given to cancerous tissues while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.
- Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT). This technique combines the precision of image guidance, the accuracy of IMRT, and motion management (4-D CT and Anzai respiratory gating) to deliver high doses of radiation in less than five treatments. This technique was pioneered at Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute and has dramatically improved our ability to control tumors.
- Multimodality radiochemotherapy. This treatment combines chemotherapy with radiation so that both treatments act together to eliminate cancerous tumors. The chemotherapy sensitizes the cancer cells to the effects of radiation and also has a primary cell-killing effect on tumors.
The department of Medical Oncology specializes in diagnosing and caring for patients with a variety of medicines, including chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, adjuvant and neoadjuvant therapy. Medicines are administered by mouth (oral) or by vein (intravenous) depending upon the treatment plan developed by your primary doctor or medical oncologist. Throughout your care, your doctor will coordinate your medication needs and your 24/7 Care Navigator may also be a part of this coordinated care effort.
The Cancer Institute’s advanced medical oncology therapies include:
- Chemotherapy. Similar in the same way that antibiotics kill bacteria, chemotherapy kills cancer cells. Because of the potency of these drugs, and their ability to sometimes also damage normal cells, side effects can occur, including hair loss, nausea and lowered blood counts. Fortunately, your body’s normal cells repair themselves much better than cancer cells. Throughout your treatment, we carefully monitor your wellness and determine medication requirements that can reduce side effects and maximize the chemotherapy’s effectiveness. Chemotherapy can be given to patients intravenously through a vein in the arm or through an implanted venous catheter, such as mediport, or orally through a pill.
- Targeted therapy. This therapy is less toxic, and in some cases, more effective than traditional chemotherapy. It works by attacking specific genes within the surrounding blood vessels that help cancer to grow.
- Immunotherapy. This form of biological therapy is designed to help your immune system fight your cancer better. Working to enhance immune system function at the cellular level, immunotherapy utilizes cancer vaccines, genetically engineered human immune stimulatory molecules, and monoclonal antibodies (cloned antibodies from healthy cells used to support the immune system to help it fight cancer).
- Adjuvant therapy. This treatment is given after surgery to reduce the chance of residual microscopic cancer cells remaining in your body. It may include chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
- Neoadjuvant therapy. This treatment is given before surgery and may include chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. It may reduce the amount of tumor remaining at the time of surgery, allowing for a more conservative operation.