How treatment is planned

If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you should be treated by a specialist gynaecological cancer team. 

This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will meet to discuss your treatment options. After the meeting, your specialist will talk to you about the types of treatment you may be able to have. This will depend on the cancer, your general health and what you may prefer. They will use national guidelines to plan the best treatment for you.

It’s important you understand your treatment options and what side effects it may cause. It may help to make a list of questions you want to ask them. You might also want to take a relative or friend with you when the treatment is first explained.

You will need to give permission (consent) before you start your treatment. You can also decide not to have it. Take as much time as you need to make your decision.

Multidisciplinary team

Women diagnosed with this type of cancer should be treated by a specialist gynaecological cancer team. These teams are based in larger cancer centres, so you may have to travel for your treatment. They will meet to discuss and decide the best treatment for you. They will consider your own wishes too.

This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will include:

  • a surgeon who specialises in gynaecological cancers (gynaecological oncologist)
  • a clinical oncologist (radiotherapy and chemotherapy specialist doctor who specialises in gynaecological cancers)
  • a medical oncologist (chemotherapy specialist doctor who specialises in gynaecological cancer)
  • a gynae-oncology nurse specialist
  • a radiologist (a doctor who analyses x-rays and scans)
  • a pathologist who examines cancer cells under a microscope and advises on the type and extent of the cancer.

It may also include other healthcare professionals, such as a dietitian, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, radiographer, psychologist or counsellor.

After the team has met, your specialist will discuss your treatment options with you. You can ask questions about anything you don’t understand or are worried about. You should also be given a telephone number for your specialist nurse or key worker who you can contact if you have any questions when you get home.

You can also talk to our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

How does an MDT work?

How the team is organised will depend on where you live - they may be slightly different across the UK. Some MDTs discuss patients from different hospitals. Specialists may be on teams for a number of different types of cancer.

How often an MDT meets may also vary. This could mean that you have to wait a bit longer to get all the results of your scans and a treatment plan from your doctor. This can be frustrating and worrying - but the pooling of different types of expertise should mean the best possible decisions are made about your treatment and care.

If waiting for results is making you anxious, you may find it helpful to talk about how you’re feeling with a partner, your family or close friends. You can also talk things over with one of our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

Benefits of an MDT

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that people with cancer should be managed by a multidisciplinary team. People cared for by an MDT are more likely to:

  • receive accurate diagnosis and staging
  • be offered a choice of treatments decided by a group of experts, rather than by one doctor
  • receive better coordination and continuity of care through all stages of the cancer
  • be treated in line with locally agreed policies and national guidelines
  • be offered appropriate and consistent information (because the person giving the information should be aware of the team’s strategy for your care)
  • have their psychological and social needs considered - communication between different team members is better where they have a formal working relationship.

Giving your consent

Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment.

No medical treatment can be given without your consent, and before you are asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:

  • the type and extent of the treatment
  • its advantages and disadvantages
  • any significant risks or side effects
  • any other treatments that may be available.

If you don't understand what you've been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it's not unusual to need repeated explanations.

It's a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion. You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment.

People sometimes feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it's important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.

You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can't make a decision when your treatment is first explained to you.

You are also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you don't have it. It’s essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You don't have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.

Back to Making treatment decisions

Getting a second opinion

Your treatment will be planned using national guidelines, but you may still want another medical opinion.

Making a complaint

Talking to your healthcare team can make it easier to cope. If you find talking difficult, there are things you can do.