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Ovarian cancer recurrence takes place when residual cancer cells persist during and after a patient’s initial course of treatment, or when cancer cells return following preliminary therapy and a period of remission. Sometimes, surgery or other treatments leave behind small clusters of cancer cells that could not be detected through imaging and other tests. This highlights the importance of appropriate and thorough initial surgery by an expert gynecologic oncologist. Additionally, some aggressive cancer cells are able to resist and survive treatment. These cells can continue to grow after the initial treatment is concluded.

Ovarian cancer recurrence can be detected in several ways. For example, a patient might experience: 

  • Unusual abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue, nausea or inability to eat and feeling full faster
  • Pain and other symptoms related to the spread of the cancer to other areas of her body
  • An increase in her CA-125 level, which is measured through a blood test that may be used to monitor ovarian cancer activity

If any of these symptoms are present, a physician will likely order one or more diagnostic tests, such as ultrasounds and CT scans, to confirm ovarian cancer recurrence and pinpoint its location.

The treatment recommended for recurrent ovarian cancer will depend on the type, duration of and patient’s response to the original treatments, as well as the location and extent of the newly diagnosed cancer. Generally, treatment for ovarian cancer will consist of systemic chemotherapy or a promising clinical trial. Many women are treated with a course of chemotherapy that may or may not be accompanied by surgery. Surgery is sometimes recommended as a supportive treatment to relieve symptoms and enhance a patient’s quality of life.

While the presence of symptoms does not necessarily indicate an ovarian cancer recurrence, it is always best for an ovarian cancer survivor to consult with a physician whenever she has a question or concern. Any woman is welcome to consult with the multispecialty ovarian cancer team at Moffitt Cancer Center, with or without a referral. 

Medically reviewed by Mian Shahzad, MD, PhDgynecologic oncologist.

If you would like to schedule an appointment to discuss ovarian cancer recurrence with a physician at Moffitt, please contact us at 1-888-663-3488 or access our convenient new patient registration form.