Having ovarian cancer can affect your daily life during and after treatment.
Recovering from surgery
Surgery to treat ovarian cancer is a major operation. It can take up to 3 months to recover.
You'll need to take things very easy for at least 2 weeks. Get plenty of rest and try to avoid spending too long on your feet. It is good for you to be a little active and to increase this as you feel able to.
You can start to return to your normal activities in the following weeks. But be careful to not do too much too soon.
Your care team will let you know about anything you need to avoid while you recover.
- you'll need to take 1 to 3 months off work
- you might not be able to drive for around a month
- you need to avoid strenuous lifting or intense exercise for at least 3 months
A physiotherapist may design an exercise plan to help your recovery.
If both your ovaries are removed and you have not been through menopause, you'll go through it after treatment.
Your doctor may suggest taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This is to control any menopausal symptoms until you reach the natural age for menopause. This is usually between 45 and 55.
After your treatment has finished, you'll need regular check-ups to see how you're doing.
These are usually every 3 months to begin with but tend to become less frequent over time.
These appointments are a chance to talk to your care team about any problems you're having.
It's common for ovarian cancer to come back within a few years of treatment finishing. You may have regular blood tests and scans to check for this.
Tell your doctor as soon as possible if any of your symptoms return after treatment. Do not wait until your next appointment.
Help and support
Dealing with cancer can be a huge challenge for you and your family and friends.
Talking to someone about your feelings or problems can help.
It may help to:
- talk to your care team or GP - they may be able to arrange professional support such as counselling
- speak to your family and friends - be open about how you feel and what they can do to help
- get in touch with a support group or charity - many have local groups where you can meet other people
Sex and fertility
Your sex life
Ovarian cancer can affect your sex life in many ways.
You'll probably be told to avoid having sex for a few weeks after surgery, so your wound has time to heal properly.
But even after your wound has healed, it's normal to not feel like having sex right away. It takes many women much longer to feel ready.
This may be because surgery has triggered menopause. It may be tiredness and stress because of being diagnosed and treated for cancer.
Talk to your partner about how you feel and do not pressure yourself into having sex too soon.
Fertility and pregnancy
For some women, treatment for ovarian cancer triggers an early menopause. This means they're no longer able to have children.
Talk to your care team about this if it's a concern for you. It may be possible to have treatment to preserve your reproductive tissues.
If you do lose your fertility, it's normal to experience a sense of loss or grief. Discuss your feelings with a partner, close friend or your specialist nurse.
If you had chemotherapy and you're able to have children, you'll be advised not to get pregnant for a couple of years. This is in case the cancer comes back and you need further treatment.
For most women, treatment for ovarian cancer triggers an early menopause. Oestrogen, a hormone usually produced by your ovaries, is a major factor in protection of your bone strength. After menopause women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, or weak bones that are at risk of fracture.
If you go through menopause early, particularly for a cancer treatment, your risk of developing weak bones (osteoporosis) is higher. It is important that you maintain a calcium enriched diet, take vitamin D supplements, and have an X-ray of your bones (DEXA scan) to check their strength. This scan will need to be repeated a few years later as osteoporosis develops over time.
There are medications that can improve your bone strength if you do develop osteoporosis and your GP will be able to discuss these with you.
Money and benefits
You may have to reduce your hours or stop working due to your cancer. This can have an impact on your finances and you may find it difficult to cope.
Find out as soon as possible what help is available to you.
Community Cancer Support Centres are in most local communities and provide support services for cancer patients, their families and carers.
They have a wide range of programmes and supports available including:
- counselling and psychological support
- manual lymphatic drainage
- physical activity programmes
- survivorship programmes
- complementary therapies
If your cancer cannot be cured
Sometimes nothing more can be done to treat the cancer. If this happens, your care team will focus on controlling your symptoms and helping you feel as comfortable as possible. This usually involves care from the palliative care team in the hospital or community.
The palliative care doctors and nurses are experts in controlling symptoms such as pain or nausea. They are sometimes involved a long time before end of life care.
Palliative care also includes psychological, social and spiritual support for you and your family.
Read more about palliative care - cancer.ie