Chemotherapy for ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer

You may have chemotherapy on its own, or with surgery, to treat ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. This treatment is often used to treat cancer that starts in the ovaries, fallopian tubes or peritoneum.

You may have chemotherapy:

  • after surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back (adjuvant chemotherapy)
  • to treat any cancer that cannot be removed during surgery
  • before surgery to shrink the cancer and make the operation easier and more effective (neo-adjuvant chemotherapy)
  • as a main treatment if surgery is not possible.

If the cancer comes back after your first treatments, it can often be controlled by having chemotherapy again.

Chemotherapy drugs

A chemotherapy drug called carboplatin is often used. You have it on its own or in combination with the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel.

If the cancer comes back and you need chemotherapy again, you may have different drugs from the first time. It depends how long ago you had your first chemotherapy and your risk of side effects.

Other chemotherapy drugs that are used include:

Having chemotherapy

You usually have chemotherapy in the chemotherapy day unit and go home after it. The drugs are usually given into a vein (intravenously).

Chemotherapy is given as one or more sessions of treatment. Each session takes a few hours. After the session, you will have a rest period of a few weeks. The chemotherapy session and the rest period is called a cycle of treatment.

The length of a cycle depends on the chemotherapy drugs you have. But most cycles are 1 to 3 weeks long. Your cancer doctor or nurse will explain what to expect. Most courses of chemotherapy are made up of six cycles.

We have more information about having chemotherapy and side effects.

Chemotherapy before surgery

You usually have 3 cycles of chemotherapy followed by a CT scan to check how effective treatment has been. Your surgeon will then talk to you about whether an operation is possible.

If you have surgery, you will have 3 more cycles of chemotherapy after you have recovered from the operation.

If you do not have surgery, you will have another 3 cycles of chemotherapy.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our ovarian cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    Fotopoulou C, et al. British Gynaecological Cancer Society (BGCS) epithelial ovarian/ fallopian tube/ primary peritoneal cancer guidelines: recommendations for practice. European Journal of Obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. 2017. 213: 123-139.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Ovarian cancer: recognition and initial management. Clinical guideline (CG122). April 2011. Available from: (accessed June 2017). 

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor David Luesley, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.