Life after treatment
For most people, the cancer experience doesn’t end on the last day of treatment. Life after cancer treatment can present its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry that every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.
Some people say that they feel pressure to return to “normal life”. It is important to allow yourself time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and establish a new daily routine at your own pace. Your family and friends may also need time to adjust.
Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with others who have had ovarian cancer, and provide you with information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.
For more on this, see Living well after cancer
Learn more about:
- Follow-up appointments
- Having CA125 blood tests
- Dealing with feelings of sadness
- Looking after yourself
After treatment ends, you will have regular appointments to monitor your health, manage any long-term side effects and look for any signs that the cancer has come back or spread. These are known as follow-up appointments.
In most cases, follow-up appointments will be with your gynaecological oncologist and medical oncologist. They may perform a physical examination, which may include an internal examination, and arrange blood tests or scans such as ultrasounds and CT scans. You will also be able to discuss any concerns you may have.
There is no set follow-up schedule for ovarian cancer, but it’s common to see a specialist every three months for the first few years, and then every four to six months for up to five years. Some people prefer not to follow a schedule but to see their specialist if they experience symptoms. Check with your doctor if you are unsure of your follow-up plan.
Your check-ups will become less frequent if you have no further problems. Between follow-up appointments, let your doctor know immediately of any symptoms or health problems.
When a follow-up appointment or test is approaching, you may find that you think more about the cancer and feel anxious. Talk to your treatment team or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 if you are finding it hard to manage this anxiety.
Having CA125 blood tests
Your specialist will also talk to you about the advantages and disadvantages of having regular blood tests for the tumour marker CA125. This test is optional.
There is some research to suggest that waiting until new symptoms develop before starting treatment is just as effective as starting treatment earlier because of a rise in CA125. Not having treatment until you have new symptoms may mean that your quality of life is better for longer because side effects of further treatment are delayed.
For germ cell tumours or stromal tumours, you may have tests for tumour markers other than CA125.
Dealing with feelings of sadness
If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have had cancer.
Talk to your GP, as counselling or medication – even for a short time – may help. Some people can get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Ask your doctor if you are eligible. Cancer Council may also run a counselling program in your area.
The Thing About Cancer podcast
Listen to our podcast The Thing About Cancer for information and insights that can help you navigate through the challenges of living with cancer.
Looking after yourself
Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain, so it’s important to look after your wellbeing. Cancer Council has free booklets and programs to help you during and after treatment. Call 13 11 20 to find out more, or see Managing cancer side effects, Exercise after a cancer diagnosis, Complementary therapies, Emotions and cancer, Nutrition and cancer, Sexuality, intimacy and cancer, Fertility and cancer, and Living well after cancer.
Alternative therapies are therapies used instead of conventional medical treatments. These are unlikely to be scientifically tested and may prevent successful treatment of the cancer and can be harmful. Cancer Council does not recommend the use of alternative therapies as a cancer treatment.
Podcast for people affected by cancer
Dr Nisha Jagasia, Gynaecological Oncologist, Mater Hospital Brisbane, QLD; Sue Hayes, Consumer; Bronwyn Jennings, Gynaecology Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Mater Health, QLD; Dr Andrew Lee, Radiation Oncologist, Canberra Region Cancer Centre and Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Tarek Meniawy, Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Caitriona Nienaber, Cancer Council WA; Jane Power, Consumer; A/Prof Sam Saidi, Senior Staff Specialist, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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Practical advice and support during and after treatment
Exercise and cancer
Exercise helps most people during cancer treatment. Find out which exercises are best for you, and watch our series of exercise videos
Relaxation and meditation
Learn how relaxation and meditation can help you both during and after cancer treatment, or listen to our relaxation and meditation audio tracks