Follow up after treatment for ovarian cancer
It's not unusual to have a variety of emotions when treatment is over.
Positive feelings may be mixed with anxiety about adjusting to life after treatment or about the cancer coming back. It’s important to let your cancer specialist, specialist nurse or GP know if you have any concerns.
After your treatment, you’ll have regular check-ups. These will probably continue for several years.
Your specialist may discuss with you whether you’d like to have regular CA125 blood tests as part of your follow-up. If you had raised CA125 levels when you were diagnosed, regular CA125 tests can help show whether the cancer is beginning to come back (called a recurrence).
Often the CA125 level will begin to rise before there are any other signs or symptoms of the cancer coming back. But treatment is usually only started if you have symptoms, or if an examination or scan results make it clear that the cancer has come back. This is because research has found that waiting until symptoms develop before starting treatment works as well as starting treatment earlier and means the side effects of treatment are delayed.
Some women want to have their CA125 level checked so that they have an early warning that the cancer might be coming back. Others choose to only have the blood test if they have symptoms they’re worried about. In some specific situations there can be advantages in discovering cancer recurrence as early as possible. In these situations your specialist may advise having regular CA125 tests as part of follow-up.
After treatment for cancer, it can take time to work out what feels normal for you. You may worry that every ache or pain you have is a sign of cancer returning.
If you develop new symptoms that are frequent and persistent (that occur most days for two weeks or more), especially those listed below, don’t wait for a follow-up appointment. Contact your specialist nurse or see your GP. They can arrange for you to be seen by your cancer specialist if needed.
The symptoms are:
bowel problems (constipation or diarrhoea) that don’t settle
feeling sick or being sick
indigestion and feeling full more quickly than normal
pain or bloating in your tummy (abdomen)
bleeding or discharge from your vagina
Well-being and recovery
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After treatment you’ll probably be keen to get back to a sense of ordinary life. But you may still be coping with the side effects of treatment and with some difficult emotions. Recovery takes time, so try not to be hard on yourself.
We have more information about life after cancer treatment.
Some women choose to make positive lifestyle changes. This doesn’t mean that you didn’t follow a healthy lifestyle before cancer, but now you may be more focused on making the most of your health. We’ve included information here that may help you focus on what you can do.
Eating healthily will give you more energy and help you recover. Try to eat plenty fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day). And, if you eat meat, cut down on processed and red meats and eat more chicken and fish.
We have more information about eating well after cancer treatment.
Be physically active
Being physically active helps to build up your energy levels, keep your weight healthy, and reduce stress and the risk of other health conditions. It also reduces the risk of bone-thinning in women who had an early menopause.
Your GP or cancer specialist may be able to refer you to special exercise groups run by exercise trainers.
We have more information about physical activity and cancer treatment.
Stop smoking and stick to sensible drinking
If you’re a smoker, giving up smoking is one of the healthiest decisions you can make. Continuing to smoke increases the risks of developing smoking-related cancers and heart disease.
We have more information about giving up smoking with tips to help you quit.
It’s recommended that women drink no more than two units of alcohol a day, or 14 units a week.
If the cancer comes back
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If the cancer comes back, chemotherapy is often used to keep it under control for a time. This can sometimes be effective for several years. The same chemotherapy drugs that were given initially can be used again if you previously had a good response to them and the cancer has stayed away for six months or more. Otherwise there are many other chemotherapy drugs that can be used.
Occasionally it may be possible to remove tumours that have come back using surgery. Radiotherapy may be used to treat particular areas or to relieve symptoms.