I’m done with Ovarian Cancer Treatment, now what?
This is a common question among women who have recently gone through treatment for ovarian cancer–and rightfully so. While the thought of remission can bring a sense of relief, there are also concerns about what other challenges may lie ahead regarding lifestyle changes, fertility, and the possible chance of recurrence.
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 circumstances you may face after ovarian cancer treatment.
Making good choices in order to stay healthy and feel your best should become a priority. Now is the time to focus on your health in ways you may not have considered in the past. 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 minimize your stress level. Whatever it is, taking steps toward positive changes can have a positive effect for the rest of your life. Read our blog on Surviving Cancer: Moving Beyond One Day at a Time.
Some cancer treatment can affect fertility, which can be additional stress to a premenopausal woman coping with cancer. If you only had one ovary removed, there is still a chance you could become pregnant, since the remaining ovary will continue to release eggs. Talking with your gynecologic oncologist can help determine the best time to try to get pregnant (conceive) after cancer treatment.
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
The return of cancer is a very common concern for those who have completed ovarian cancer treatment. Many ovarian cancer survivors 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, no one should blame themselves. Even if you’re doing everything right, there is a chance that cancer can come back.
Don’t lose hope! 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.
In some cases, ovarian cancer survivors develop a new, unrelated cancer, which is called a “second cancer.” It’s important to remember that although the risk is higher, the actual number of people developing a second cancer is relatively small.
Although most ovarian cancer is not caused by inherited mutations, 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
No matter what concerns weigh on your mind, you can find some peace in knowing that your ovarian cancer specialists will continue to watch you closely. 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.