Ovarian cancer is treatable in many cases. The ovarian cancer treatments available to each woman will depend upon the type of ovarian cancer she has, and what grade and stage it is at. Treatment will usually involve lots of different medical professionals, including an oncologist, a clinical nurse specialist and a chemotherapy nurse.
The usual course of treatment may include surgery and chemotherapy. If the cancer is caught at a really early stage, which is rarely the case, sometimes surgery is required but not chemotherapy. Most people will have chemotherapy and some women will need to have it before their surgery, to reduce the size of tumours in order to make surgery easier, safer or more successful. Here we explain a little more about each type of ovarian cancer treatment and how they work together.
Ovarian cancer surgery
Surgery is usually required to remove the ovaries, fallopian tubes, womb and cervix, or other areas that may be affected by cancerous cells. Surgery can be stressful and will require many weeks of recovery time. Pain can be managed with medication but, as you can imagine, it can be a very emotional time.
This type of surgery means that a woman is unable to conceive, so for younger women who were planning or considering having children or more children, this can feel like a great loss. For older women, even those who have been through menopause, there can be a sense of loss and change. For women who have not had menopause, the surgery will push the body into an immediate menopause with a variety of symptoms, which can make the operation and recovery even harder. You may be able to take hormone replacement therapy to ease the transition. Read more about surgery for ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer chemotherapy
Surgery is usually followed up with chemotherapy. This is a special course of medication designed to kill cancer cells that are still in the body, delivered through a drip at a hospital. It can take most of a day to receive a course of chemotherapy and the course is repeated up to six times with a break of around three weeks each time.
Chemotherapy side effects can be difficult to manage and may include fatigue, hair loss, sickness or nausea and loss of appetite. However, chemotherapy is often a very effective treatment for ovarian cancer.
For more information on ovarian cancer treatments, visit the NHS website.
Ovarian cancer products
Daily living aids are products designed to help people experiencing health conditions carry out their usual day-to-day tasks with greater ease. Some daily living aids may be particularly useful if you are recovering from ovarian cancer treatment, after having surgery or chemotherapy for example. Here, we list a selection of daily living aids that may help you with ovarian cancer symptoms or treatment side effects.
If you are struggling with fatigue or pain, there are a number of daily living aids which can help make you more comfortable when:
• Taking a bath
• Having a shower
• Using the toilet
• Standing for long periods
• Getting in and out of bed
• Getting in and out of a chair
If you are finding mobility difficult, perhaps due to fatigue or pain, or whilst recovering from surgery, you may find that mobility aids, such as a rollator, assist you in getting around more easily and enabling you to rest when required.
If you are unsure what ovarian cancer products may help you, contact our Occupational Therapist Product Advice team for free by calling 0345 121 8111 or emailing [email protected]
Ovarian cancer diet
It’s important to eat well if you have ovarian cancer. There is no specific ovarian cancer diet to follow, but a balanced diet with the right nutrients is important for your strength and recovery. Some people may find that they have little appetite because of their ovarian cancer symptoms or the side effects from surgery or chemotherapy. This is normal but it may be worth talking to your nurse specialist for advice. For more cancer diet advice, visit Cancer Research UK’s website.
Some women choose to take vitamin and mineral supplements for ovarian cancer, but there is often little evidence to show that these make a difference to symptoms, recovery or progression of cancer. However, some people do report that certain ovarian cancer supplements make them feel better. Always speak to your nurse specialist or oncologist before taking supplements of any sort to ensure they will not interfere with your treatments for ovarian cancer.
Exercise for ovarian cancer
Regular exercise often helps reduce our risk of developing certain healthcare conditions and some studies have found that women who exercised regularly had less risk of developing ovarian cancer. Women with an ovarian cancer diagnosis may benefit from regular, gentle exercise to help boost mood and help the body recover after ovarian cancer treatment. Target Ovarian Cancer provides lots of advice about looking after yourself if you have ovarian cancer, including information on ovarian cancer exercise and ovarian cancer diet.
Ovarian cancer and employment
Many women with an ovarian cancer diagnosis continue to work if they did so before their diagnosis and if they wish to do so or need to do so financially. Many will need time off for ovarian cancer treatments and recovery from surgery often takes up to three months. Some people find a phased return to work is the best way for them to get back to work gradually. Fatigue is a big symptom of cancer and also of chemotherapy and surgery treatments for ovarian cancer. Find out more about coping with cancer fatigue.
Read more information on ovarian cancer and work.