Find out what you can do, who can help and about how to cope if you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
You might have a number of different feelings when you're told you have cancer. You may feel shocked and upset. You might also feel:
- frightened and uncertain
- angry and resentful
You may have some or all of these feelings. Or you might feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it is hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.
Feelings are a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.
You are more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information also helps you to know what to expect.
Taking in information can be difficult at first. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask and help remember the answers.
Ask your doctors and nurses to explain things again if you need them to.
Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.
Treatment causes side effects. These can be mild or more severe. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any side effects or if they get worse. They can treat them and help you find ways of coping.
Talking to other people
Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.
It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you.
Help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.
You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.
Specialist nurses can help you if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if you have any problems. They can get you the help you need. They can also give you information about your cancer.
NHS Choices has a service that tells you about local information and support.
Treatment for ovarian cancer can cause changes which may affect your body image. This might lead to a loss of confidence and self-esteem.
Chemotherapy can cause hair loss, which for some women can be extremely upsetting and difficult to cope with. This is understandable because our appearance is closely linked to our feelings of self esteem. It’s not unusual for people who have lost their hair to feel angry and depressed. You may feel worried about how your friends and family see you.
Remember that the people closest to you will not see you any differently as a person. They will want to support you as much as they can, so it is important to tell them how you’re feeling.
Having your ovaries and womb removed can be a very emotional experience, even if you were past the menopause when you were diagnosed. Your doctor and specialist nurse will help support you and your partner if were planning on having children in the future, and can discuss your options.
Surgery will leave a scar on your tummy (abdomen), that will gradually fade with time. But it can be a reminder of what you have been through. And some women may feel self-conscious of it at first.
If you were still having periods before your surgery to remove both ovaries, you will have a sudden menopause. This can cause symptoms, such as hot flushes and sweats. The symptoms can be quite intense as your hormone levels fall quickly. The effects can go on for a few months.
Having menopausal symptoms can be difficult to cope with. Talk to your cancer specialist nurse about this. They can help you find ways to cope.
Tiredness and weakness can be a problem during treatment. Resting but also doing some gentle physical activity can help.
Relationships and sex
The physical changes and emotional feelings you have can affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to manage this.
Practical things you and your family might need to cope with include:
- money matters
- financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
- work issues
Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting early help with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.