I’m done with Ovarian Cancer Treatment, now what?
It’s understandable that women who have recently gone through treatment for ovarian cancer want the answer to this question. While the thought of remission can bring a sense of relief, there are also questions and concerns about what it means to be an ovarian cancer survivor--What lifestyle changes will I have to make? Will there be fertility challenges? What are the chances my cancer will come back?
If you have recently finished ovarian cancer treatment it is important to remember to give yourself time to adjust to any physical and emotional changes you are going through. Eventually, ovarian cancer survivors re-establish a daily routine--and you will too, at your own pace.
Once your cancer treatment is over, you may find yourself redefining what a “normal” life looks like. As you do, here are some situations you may face once you are finished with ovarian cancer treatment.
One of your biggest priorities should be making good choices in order to stay healthy and feel your best. If you didn’t focus on your health that much in the past, now is the time to change that. This could mean eating better or getting more exercise. Maybe it means eliminating unhealthy vices like smoking and drinking too much alcohol. Perhaps it’s time to find ways to lower the amount of stress in your life. Whatever it is, taking steps toward positive changes can have a positive effect for the rest of your life.
Some cancer treatment can affect fertility, which can be additional stress to a premenopausal ovarian cancer survivor. If only one of your ovaries was removed, there is still a chance you could become pregnant, since the remaining ovary will continue to release eggs. Your gynecologic oncologist can help determine the best time for you to try to get pregnant (conceive) now that cancer treatment is done.
If both ovaries have been removed, however, getting pregnant isn’t an option. Your ovarian cancer specialist can put you in contact with a counselor or provide you with a list of support groups that may help you during this difficult time.
Cancer Recurrence or Second Cancer
A common concern among ovarian cancer survivors is the possible return of cancer. Many of these women go on to lead full lives. Others, however, may be faced with chemotherapy treatments, off and on for years, to manage ovarian cancer that never completely goes away. While this can be challenging, it’s important to remember that you are not to blame. Even if you’re doing everything right, there is a chance that cancer can come back.
Don’t get discouraged! Although recurrent ovarian cancer is rarely completely cured, your ovarian cancer specialist can help control the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease with through the use of various cancer treatment options, including some which may be in the clinical research program.
Sometimes, ovarian cancer survivors develop a new, unrelated cancer, which is known as a “second cancer.” Although the risk is higher, it is important to remember that the actual number of people developing a second cancer is relatively small.
Most ovarian cancer is not caused by inherited mutations, however, genetic testing for cancer is an option. A woman’s lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a harmful mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which produce tumor suppressor proteins. Mutations of these genes inhibits the proteins from repairing DNA damage. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer. If your cancer was caused by a genetic mutation, genetic testing may provide beneficial information for other members of your family who could be affected.
Regular Check Ups
As you deal with ovarian cancer survivorship, you can find some peace in knowing that your ovarian cancer specialists will continue to be there for you, watching you closely and addressing your concerns. Going to all of your follow-up appointments gives your doctors a chance to look for signs of cancer recurrence or long-lasting treatment side effects.
With support from your cancer care team, friends, and family, you can move forward with life after ovarian cancer treatment.