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  • Looking after yourself after treatment for ovarian cancer

    Contents

    Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain. It’s important to try to look after your well-being as much as possible.

    Nutrition

    Eating healthy food can help you cope with treatment and side effects. A dietitian can help you manage special dietary needs or eating problems, and choose the best foods for your situation.

    For more information about nutrition, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download the booklet Nutrition and Cancer.

    Staying active

    Physical activity may help to reduce tiredness, improve circulation and elevate mood. The amount and type of exercise you do depends on what you are used to, how you feel, and your doctor’s advice.

    For more information about exercise, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download the booklet Exercise for people living with cancer.

    Complementary therapies

    These therapies are used with conventional medical treatments. You may have therapies such as massage, relaxation and acupuncture to increase your sense of control, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve your mood. Let your doctor know about any therapies you are using or thinking about trying as some may not be safe or evidence based.

    Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medical treatments. These therapies, such as coffee enemas and magnet therapy, can be harmful.

    For more information about complementary therapies, call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or you can download the booklet Understanding Complementary Therapies.

    Relationships with others

    Having cancer can affect your relationships with family, friends and colleagues. This may be because cancer is stressful, tiring and upsetting, or as a result of more positive changes to your values, priorities or outlook on life.

    Give yourself time to adjust to what’s happening and do the same for others. People may deal with the cancer in different ways, for example by being overly positive, playing down fears or keeping a distance. It may be helpful to discuss your feelings with each other or with a health professional, such as a nurse or a counsellor.

    Life after treatment

    For most women, the cancer experience doesn’t end on the last day of treatment. Life after cancer treatment can present its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends and worry if every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.

    Some women say that they feel pressure to return to ‘normal life’, but they don’t want life to return to how it was before cancer. You may want or need to make changes to your life. Take some time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a new daily routine at your own pace. Your family and friends may also need time to adjust.

    Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other women who have had cancer and provide you with information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.

    Follow-up appointments

    After your treatment, you will usually have regular check-ups to confirm that the cancer hasn’t come back or spread, and to manage any long-term side effects of treatment.

    Follow-up appointments may include a physical examination, discussion about any side effects or other concerns, blood tests and scans, including ultrasounds and CT scans.

    These appointments may be with your gynaecological oncologist or medical oncologist. There is no set follow-up schedule for ovarian cancer, but women commonly see their specialist every three months for the first two years, and every four to six months for the next two years. Some women prefer not to follow a schedule but to see their specialist if they experience symptoms. Check with your doctor if you are unsure of your follow-up plan.

    It’s common to worry before follow-up appointments. To help ease your concerns, you may want to talk to your doctor or nurse about what to expect during check-ups.

    Having CA125 blood tests

    Your specialist will also talk to you about the advantages and disadvantages of having regular CA125 blood tests.

    This test is optionalresearch has found that waiting until symptoms develop before starting treatment is just as effective as starting treatment earlier. This means that quality of life is improved as side effects of further treatment are delayed.

    What if ovarian cancer returns?

    For many women, ovarian cancer does come back after treatment and a period of improvement (remission). This is known as a recurrence.

    Even after a good response to initial surgery and chemotherapy, it is likely that cancer will recur in women who were first diagnosed with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer. Usually the longer the time between the end of the first course of treatment and the recurrence, the better the response will be to further treatment.

    Many women have a number of recurrences, with long intervals in-between when they do not require any cancer treatment.

    The most common treatment for epithelial ovarian cancer that has come back is more chemotherapy or targeted therapy. The drugs used will depend on what drugs you were initially given, the length of remission and the treatment aims. The drugs used the first time may be given again if you had a good response to them and the cancer stayed away for six months or more.

    New drugs are constantly being developed. Genetic screening and targeted therapy are offering new treatment options for women with ovarian cancer. Talk with your doctor about the latest developments that may be available through clinical trials.

    Tips for dealing with uncertainty

    • Talk with other women who have had ovarian cancer. You may find it reassuring to hear about their experiences.
    • Keep a symptom diary to track how you’re feeling.
    • Explore different ways to relax, such as meditation or yoga, to deal with stress and anxiety.
    • Talking to a psychologist or counsellor about how you are feeling might help. They may be able to teach you some strategies to help you manage your fears.
    • Practise letting your thoughts come and go without getting caught up in them.
    • Try to exercise regularly. Exercise has been shown to help women cope with the side effects of treatment.
    • Focus on making healthy choices in areas of your life that you can control, such as what you eat.
    • Set yourself some goalsas you achieve each one, set some new goals.

    This website page was last reviewed and updated October 2018.

    Information reviewed by: A/Prof Alison Brand, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, and Chair, Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group, NSW; Dr Scott Carruthers, Director, Radiation Oncology, Lyell McEwin Hospital, and Deputy Director, Radiation Oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Elizabeth Cooch, Cancer Support Nurse, Ovarian Cancer Australia; Dr Serene Foo, Medical Oncologist, Austin Hospital, Epworth Eastern Hospital, and Mercy Hospital for Women, VIC; Keely Gordon-King, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland; Carol Lynch, Consumer; A/Prof Gillian Mitchell, Honorary Medical Oncologist, Familial Cancer Centre, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and The Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne, VIC; Claire Quenby, Social Worker, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, WA; Jan Priaulx, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Hayley Russell, Support Coordinator, Ovarian Cancer Australia.

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