Treating germ cell ovarian cancer

What treatment you have depends on the type of germ cell tumour you have and whether it has spread outside the ovaries. Most people have a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.

Surgery is used to remove the affected ovary and fallopian tube. Most people will also need chemotherapy (anti-cancer drugs) to get rid of cancer cells that were not removed with the surgery, and to help stop the cancer coming back. Chemotherapy can cause some side effects such as tiredness, hair loss and feeling sick. These usually go away gradually when treatment stops.

Removing one ovary and fallopian tube should not affect your fertility (ability to get pregnant). Chemotherapy may affect your fertility but it can be difficult to predict. Your doctor may talk to you about storing your eggs before chemotherapy starts. Stored eggs can be used with fertility treatments if you want to get pregnant.

Surgery to remove both ovaries and the womb will mean you cannot get pregnant in the future. This can be very upsetting news. Your doctor and nurse will give you information and support.

Treatment overview

Most girls and young women with germ cell tumours of the ovary can be cured.

Your treatment will depend on the type of germ cell tumour you have and whether it has spread outside the ovaries. Treatments include:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • surgery and chemotherapy 
  • radiotherapy

Surgery and chemotherapy are the two main types of treatment. Often people have both. 

Before you have treatment, your specialist needs to know the type of germ cell tumour you have and what stage it is. The stage of a cancer describes the size of the tumour and whether it has spread outside the ovary.

Your specialist will tell you the exact stage of the cancer after surgery. Most germ cell tumours are diagnosed early when they are in one (or sometimes both) ovaries, but have not spread anywhere else in the body. Waiting to hear about the stage of the cancer can be worrying. But this information is important, because it helps your doctors plan the right treatment. 

Another important part of planning treatment is to try to make sure you are still fertile (able to become pregnant) afterwards. Your doctors will think carefully about this when planning your treatment. We have more information about fertility after treatment for ovarian cancer

Watch this playlist to receive tips on how to get through cancer treatment

In these videos, learn more about the impact of cancer on your day-to-day life

Watch this playlist to receive tips on how to get through cancer treatment

In these videos, learn more about the impact of cancer on your day-to-day life

Chemotherapy

This video provides a brief overview of chemotherapy treatment, how it can be given, how it works and possible side effects.

About our cancer information videos

Chemotherapy

This video provides a brief overview of chemotherapy treatment, how it can be given, how it works and possible side effects.

About our cancer information videos


Surgery and chemotherapy

You will usually have chemotherapy after your surgery. You might have more surgery after you have finished chemotherapy, if there is still some tumour left behind. If the cancer has spread, you may have chemotherapy before an operation. This can make it easier to remove the cancer by shrinking it.

Radiotherapy explained

Consultant Clinical Oncologist Vincent Khoo describes external beam radiotherapy, how it works, and what it involves.

Information about our videos

Radiotherapy explained

Consultant Clinical Oncologist Vincent Khoo describes external beam radiotherapy, how it works, and what it involves.

Information about our videos

Back to Ovarian cancer

The ovaries

To understand ovarian cancer, it helps to know a bit about the ovaries.

Having tests

Your GP may arrange for you to have tests to see whether you have ovarian cancer.

Life after treatment

Find out what will happen when you finish treatment for ovarian cancer, and how you can cope with any effects.