IP Chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer

What is IP chemotherapy?

IP chemotherapy is given in your abdomen. “IP” stands for intraperitoneal (in-truh-pairih-toe-NEE-ol). “Intra” means inside, and “peritoneal” refers to the abdominal cavity.

Your doctor may plan a variety of IP chemo treatments for you. Some treatments could combine IP chemo and IV (intravenous) chemo.

How is the treatment given?

You receive IP chemo through a device called a “port.” The port has plastic tubing that will carry the chemo into your abdomen. The port does not enter a vein and cannot be used to give IV fluids or to draw blood.

 

The port is implanted surgically over your ribs under the skin. Your surgeon may implant the port during your staging surgery. “Staging” determines how far cancer has advanced. Or the port may be implanted in an outpatient procedure after your staging surgery.

An entire course of therapy usually takes about 5 to 6 months. After therapy is completed, the port is removed and cannot be re-used.

What chemo drugs are used?

Two cancer drugs can be used as IP chemo for ovarian cancer: cisplatin and paclitaxel. Research is under way to find additional cancer drugs for IP chemo.

What happens during a treatment?

You will lie almost flat on a bed. Your nurse will insert a needle into the port. This allows the chemo to flow (infuse) into your abdomen. The infusion of chemo usually lasts 2 to 3 hours. During the chemo treatment, you also will receive fluids by IV to keep you well hydrated.

 

After the infusion is done, your nurse will take the needle out of the port. All of the chemo fluid stays inside your abdomen. Over the next several days, the fluid is slowly absorbed by your abdominal tissues.

What should you expect during a treatment?

While you are receiving chemo into your abdomen, you may have some abdominal swelling, bloating, or pain. This is very common. If you feel pain or discomfort, tell your nurse. Your nurse can give you medicine to help relieve discomfort.

What are the side effects?

One or more side effects may occur with chemotherapy:

 

  • Allergic reaction: This is rare, but can happen. It usually shows up during the infusion as redness or flushing of the skin, shortness of breath, or chest pain. If you experience any of these, tell your nurse. To reverse the allergic reaction, usually the infusion is stopped, and you are given medicine.
  • Nausea or vomiting: This can happen after the chemo infusion. You will receive nausea medicine in your IV during the infusion. You will be given medicine to take at home if you need it. If vomiting does not stop, call your doctor. Severe vomiting may require additional IV medicines or fluids.
  • Abdominal bloating or pain: This usually lessens after the infusion. Pain medicine may be needed during infusion or at home. If you feel severe pain at any time, tell your nurse or call your doctor. Your port also may need to be checked to be sure it is working properly.
  • Shortness of breath: Some women have mild shortness of breath during the infusion. When the chemo fluid fills the abdomen, it may push up on the lungs and diaphragm. Tell your nurse if you have shortness of breath.
  • Abnormal blood tests: After chemo, lab tests may show abnormalities in your blood. These may include low blood counts, loss of electrolytes, or kidney problems. Your blood will be checked often during your course of IP chemo.
  • Malfunction of the port: A port could stop working during a treatment. Signs that a port is not working properly are pain or lack of fluid flowing into the abdomen. If you feel pain, tell your nurse.
  • Infection of the port: Signs of infection are pain or redness at the port site, fever, chills, or high white blood cell count. If this occurs, call your nurse or doctor.
  • Leakage from the port: Fluid could leak from the port site. If this occurs, call your nurse or doctor.

When to call your doctor

If you have any of the symptoms below, call your doctor or nurse right away:

  • Nausea or vomiting not relieved by nausea medicine
  • Fever higher than 100.5 F
  • Chills
  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Redness at the port site
  • Leakage from the port site

Reviewed July 2011

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