Ovarian cancer affects the ovaries, which are responsible for producing and releasing eggs during a woman’s reproductive years. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is often difficult to detect in its early stages, which means that most are diagnosed with advanced stage cancer when they first seek medical attention. While treatments for ovarian cancer have come a long way in recent years, recurrence is a concern. A recurrence can be a scary and overwhelming experience. However, there are steps you can take to manage your cancer and improve your quality of life.
Here are some of the first steps you can take, as well as answers to some commonly asked questions about recurrent ovarian cancer and strategies for coping.
First steps after an ovarian cancer recurrence:
- Find a doctor who specializes in ovarian cancer recurrence.
It is important for you to feel comfortable and confident in your doctor and your treatment plan. Sometimes, talking with another gynecologic oncologist can help you feel better about your plan. They might have different ideas on how to treat your cancer and offer more options. Here are some tips on how to get a second opinion.
Helpful Link - Seek a Specialist
The Seek a Specialist tool provided by the Foundation for Women’s Cancer offers a comprehensive directory of gynecologic oncologists who are currently practicing.
- Learn all you can about your cancer.
- Develop a treatment plan with your doctor.
The plan you and your doctor decide on will depend on many factors including:
- past treatments and side effects you might have had
- the extent of the cancer (the stage and type of your cancer)
- the length of time since your last treatment took place
- your overall health preferences
Your treatment plan may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy (clinical trials), and PARP inhibitors. Sometimes surgery is used to relieve symptoms.
- Consider joining a clinical trial.
Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments or therapies for cancer. They may give you access to new treatments that are not yet widely available. If you are interested in joining a clinical trial, talk to your doctor about how to do so.
Informative Video - Clinical Trial Basics
- Seek support from others.
A recurrence can be emotionally and physically challenging. Getting support from family, friends, and healthcare providers can help you manage the stress and future unknowns. Join a support group, or speak with a therapist who is trained in cancer care.
Helpful Program - Survivor Peer Support Groups
Find a regional support group, where you’ll be embraced by a compassionate community of those living with ovarian cancer at all stages of their journey.
Frequently asked questions about ovarian cancer recurrence
Is recurrent ovarian cancer generally associated with poor prognosis?
The likelihood of a positive outcome depends on many factors, including the stage of the cancer, the location ,biology of the tumor, and overall health. In some cases, ovarian cancer recurrence may be treated as a chronic disease, meaning that the cancer is managed over time with ongoing treatment.
How likely is it for ovarian cancer to come back?
The likelihood of ovarian cancer recurrence varies depending on many factors, including the stage of the cancer at diagnosis, the type of ovarian cancer, and the treatment received. Some studies suggest that up to 70% of people with ovarian cancer will experience a recurrence of their cancer. However, the risk of recurrence decreases over time, with the highest risk occurring within the first two years after treatment.
What are the treatment for ovarian cancer recurrence?
The treatment for ovarian cancer recurrence will depend on the stage and type of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health and preferences. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these treatments. In some cases, targeted therapy or immunotherapy may be used to treat ovarian cancer recurrence.
Strategies for coping with an ovarian cancer recurrence:
- Take care of your mental health.
Managing the emotional impact of cancer can be as important as managing the physical symptoms. Coping with a recurrence can be hard and it is normal to feel a range of emotions such as anxiety, sadness, anger, and frustration. Talk to your healthcare team about counseling or therapy services available to you, and consider joining a support group for those with ovarian cancer. Additionally, self-care practices such as meditation, yoga, or journaling can help you manage your emotions and improve your mental health.
Helpful Program - One-on-One Professional Counseling
Our free, two month, one-on-one virtual professional counseling sessions provide a safe space for anyone affected by ovarian cancer to express themselves from the comfort of home.
- Eat a healthy diet.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help support your overall health during cancer treatment. Talk to your healthcare team about a healthy eating plan that meets your individual needs and preferences. You may also consider working with a registered dietitian who specializes in oncology nutrition to help develop a personalized nutrition plan.
Helpful Service - Meal Delivery
Our free meal delivery service ensures that nutritious and delicious meals are delivered right to your doorstep, so you can focus on healing and regaining strength during treatment.
- Stay physically active as possible.
Physical activity can help manage fatigue, improve strength and flexibility, and reduce stress. Talk to your healthcare team about the type and amount of physical activity that is appropriate for you, based on your overall health and treatment plan. Gentle activities such as walking, yoga, or swimming can be a good starting point.
Informative Video - The Role of Exercise in Ovarian Cancer Survivorship
- Take your medications as prescribed.
If you are taking medications as part of your cancer treatment, it is important to take them exactly as prescribed by your healthcare team. This can help manage side effects and ensure that you receive the full benefit of the treatment.
- Stay connected to your loved ones.
Staying connected to your family and friends can be an important source of emotional support during a cancer recurrence. Consider joining a support group or reaching out to friends and family for help with daily tasks or emotional support.
- Prioritize self-care.
Cancer treatment can be physically and emotionally draining, so it’s important to prioritize self-care. This may include activities that you enjoy, such as reading, taking a bath, or watching a movie. You may also consider treating yourself to small indulgences, such as a massage or a favorite treat.
- Keep a positive outlook.
Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive, but it’s important because it can make you feel better overall. Focus on things you can control, like taking care of yourself, eating healthy, and being active. Try to stay focused on the present and not think too much about the past or the future.
Dealing with ovarian cancer coming back can be tough, but there are ways to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Make sure to check in with yourself, keep in touch with your loved ones, and try to stay positive. Remember that you’re not alone, and there are doctors and support groups that can help you during this difficult time.
Facing an Ovarian Cancer Recurrence?
Reviewed and updated | July, 2023