Lifestyle Changes to Manage Ovarian Cancer
by Ricker Polsdorfer, MD
Lifestyle changes can help:
Smoking introduces toxic chemicals into the body that may also be working to heal from cancer treatments. Smoking can also increase the risk of complications from medical procedures and slow tissue healing.
When you quit smoking, the body immediately begins to repair itself. Quitting will help boost your immune system to help fight the cancer and improve recovery from treatment.
Manage Menopause and Sexual Side Effects
Surgery to remove the ovaries, along with other non-surgical treatments, stops production of estrogen and progesterone, which induces menopause. Menopause causes a variety of symptoms including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, depression, pain during intercourse, and a decreased sex drive.
There are several treatment approaches available to treat menopause and sexual side effects. Examples include:
Have an honest discussion with your partner and doctor if ovarian cancer treatment is causing these problems.
Reduce Your Risk of Infection
Cancer and its treatments suppress the body's immune system. This can increase the risk of infection, or increase the severity of common infections, like a cold or the flu. To decrease the risk of infection while going through cancer treatment:
Make Dietary Changes
A healthful diet can help your body and mood. Your diet can provide fuel to help your body function at its best, and nutrition to help tissue heal and recover. Mood and overall energy will also be better with proper nutritional support.
Cancer itself and some cancer treatments can reduce your appetite. It becomes important to make the most of the calories that are eaten. A registered dietitian can help manage challenges that may be found with cancer or cancer treatments, and develop an effective meal plan.
If you have not been exercising regularly, check with your doctor to choose a safe exercise program. Exercise has many benefits that may help you withstand the physical and emotional stresses of cancer and cancer treatment including:
You may consider consulting a personal trainer to help you set exercise goals and to safely follow through on initiating an exercise program. While adding exercise, be sure to balance rest and activities to prevent becoming too tired.
Fatigue is the most frequently experienced symptom of cancer and cancer treatments. To help avoid getting overtired, prioritize tasks and focus on the most important ones. It is important to allow others to help you with daily chores, shopping, and preparing meals. If needed, plan time throughout the day for rest.
If fatigue is affecting quality of life, talk to your doctor.
The diagnosis of cancer is a life-defining event that can be difficult to handle. Facing the uncertainty of a serious disease, feeling anxious about how you will feel during treatment, lifestyle changes, and worrying about the impact of both the diagnosis and treatment can be overwhelming. It is important to rely on family, friends, and other people in your life. People who allow themselves to seek help while they are recovering from cancer can often maintain better emotional balance. Other sources of support include:
Family and caregivers may also need support. Encourage them to seek support groups or counseling geared toward them.
Ovarian cancer is especially difficult because it is usually found in advanced stages, making it harder to treat. Some people choose treatments to ease cancer complications or choose to stop treatment completely. Depending on your circumstances, it may be realistic to begin end-of-life planning. Considerations may include:
If you need guidance, talk to a member of your healthcare team. You can be referred to a trained professional to guide you through the process.
General information about ovarian epithelial, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian/patient/ovarian-epithelial-treatment-pdq. Updated October 13, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Menopause. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114698/Menopause . Updated November 27, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Ovarian cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900705/Ovarian-cancer . Updated November 17, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Ovarian cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
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Updated March 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Stay healthy. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/healthy.html. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 11/4/2016
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