If ovarian cancer returns
If ovarian cancer is advanced at diagnosis, it often does come back after treatment and a period of improvement (remission). This is known as a recurrence and it is why regular follow-up appointments are important.
In many cases, there may be a number of recurrences, with long intervals in between recurrences when cancer treatment is not needed. Early-stage ovarian cancer is less likely to come back than advanced ovarian cancer.
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Treatments for recurrent ovarian cancer
The most common treatment for epithelial ovarian cancer that has come back is more chemotherapy or targeted therapy. The drugs used will depend on what drugs you had initially, the length of remission and the aim of the treatment. The drugs used the first time may be given again if you had a good response to them and the cancer stayed away for six months or more.
New drugs are constantly being developed. Genetic tests and targeted therapy are offering new treatment options for people with ovarian cancer. Talk with your doctor about the latest developments and whether a clinical trial may be right for you.
Living with uncertainty
One of the challenges of an ovarian cancer diagnosis is dealing with uncertainty. When first diagnosed, many people want to know what’s going to happen and when it will be over. But living with uncertainty is part of having cancer, especially if the cancer is advanced.
There are some questions you will not be able to answer. Learning as much as you can about the cancer may make you feel more in control.
Tips for dealing with uncertainty
- Talk with other people who have had ovarian cancer. You may find it reassuring to hear about their experiences.
- Keep a diary to track how you’re feeling.
- Explore different ways to relax, such as meditation or yoga.
- Talk to a psychologist or counsellor about how you are feeling – they may be able to teach you some strategies to help you manage your fears.
- Practise letting your thoughts come and go without getting caught up in them.
- Try to exercise regularly. Exercise has been shown to help people cope with the side effects of treatment.
- Focus on making healthy choices in areas of your life that you can control, such as eating well and getting regular exercise.
- Set yourself some goals – as you achieve each one, set some new goals.
- Listen to our podcasts on Managing Fear and Living Well with Advanced Cancer.
A/Prof Sam Saidi, Senior Staff Specialist, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Penny Blomfield, Gynaecological Oncologist, Hobart Women’s Specialists, and Chair, Australian Society of Gynaecologic Oncologists, TAS; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Sonja Kingston, Consumer; Clinical A/Prof Judy Kirk, Head, Familial Cancer Service, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, and Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Researcher, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Support Team, Ovarian Cancer Australia; Emily Stevens, Gynaecology Oncology Nurse Coordinator, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Dr Amy Vassallo, Fussell Family Foundation Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW; Merran Williams, Consumer.
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