Getting through ovarian cancer treatment is certainly worth celebrating. However, there are other very important steps to take as you transition to living as a survivor of ovarian cancer. It’s important that you remain an advocate for your health and continue taking steps to make sure that you stay as healthy as possible. Your oncologist is a great source of support and resources as you live your life as an ovarian cancer survivor.
Here are a few tips to follow as a survivor of ovarian cancer.
Follow-up care is such an important part of cancer treatment. This phase of treatment is when your doctor keeps an eye on you as you manage the short-term and long-term side effects of treatment. You’ll likely have several appointments at the cancer center that take place over several years. During these visits, your oncologist will ask about your overall health, and you can also use this time to ask any questions you may have. They’re also likely to run some tests including a simple blood test to look for any signs that cancer might have started growing again. They may also periodically request some imaging.
Most ovarian cancer survivors have a pelvic exam every 2-4 months during the first couple of years following cancer treatment. After that, you may only need it every 3-6 months for the following years.
All of this is done to be sure the treatments were effective. And, if any cancer cells appear, they can be treated as quickly as possible.
Create a system for organizing medical records that work for you. Some people like to have all of their files digitized and saved to a jump-drive, while others prefer papers filed away. Whatever method you use, make sure that you keep a complete record of your ovarian cancer treatment.
Having all of this information readily available will make it much easier to discuss your medical history with another doctor. The documents can also be a good reference to look back on if you want to ask your doctor or oncologist more questions about your past treatment. Your doctor can also provide additional copies if you don’t have a complete record already put together.
Many ovarian cancer survivors are interested in learning about lifestyle changes that could reduce the risk of cancer recurring. While no solution will totally wipe out your risk altogether, there are some things you can do to better your chances. Some ways to reduce your risk include:
It’s important to point out that none of these are going to prevent cancer from returning, but they make your body healthier and stronger. Ask your oncologist about specific things you can do to reduce your risk of ovarian cancer recurrence.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with any form of cancer, you are at higher risk for having second cancer later on. It’s important to continue your follow-up care and have any additional testing or screenings that your oncologist recommends. Be mindful of your health and report any changes right away.
About 10-15% of ovarian cancer diagnoses are related to a genetic mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. This same mutation is also linked to breast cancer. Talk to your oncologist about whether your ovarian cancer was caused by a genetic mutation. For some women, preventive mastectomy (removal of the breasts), is considered to greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer ever developing. This is not a standard recommendation, however. Your oncologist may simply suggest you have more frequent mammograms if you have the BRCA gene mutation. Discuss what’s right for you based on your personal history, overall health, and level of anxiety about the development of breast cancer in the future.
As an ovarian cancer survivor, you’re getting back to living a life that is probably closer to what you had before cancer. Try to stay focused on the positive aspects of life, without letting the fear of recurrence take over your thoughts. Do things you love, spend time with your family, and don’t forget to take care of yourself both mentally and physically with follow-up care and support. Talk with our team to learn more about resources and support in the Portland and Vancouver areas for ovarian cancer survivors.