After Ovarian Cancer: A Guide to Follow-Up Care


Sarah Lewis, PharmD

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The end of ovarian cancer treatment is a milestone. It marks a major life change that isn’t always easy. Each person reacts differently with unique hopes, fears, and coping strategies. If treatment has destroyed all traces of ovarian cancer, you may find yourself experiencing a wide range of emotions—anything from excitement to worry. Knowing what to expect after treatment can help you manage the transition.

Survivorship Plan

Cancer survivorship focuses on helping people live life to the fullest after active cancer treatment. This includes physical, emotional and spiritual support for as long as you need it.

You will work with your cancer care team to develop your personalized survivorship plan. Part of the plan will be deciding which provider—your cancer doctor or your regular doctor—will lead your follow up care. The rest of the plan will include programs to meet your unique needs. The number of services and the length of time you need them will vary. You may also find that your needs change with time. Your care coordinator will help you develop and maintain your own survivorship plan.

Medical Follow-Up

You will continue to see your cancer doctor for many years after ovarian cancer treatment. It’s important to keep these follow-up appointments. Your doctor will closely monitor for cancer recurrence. Part of your care will also involve managing long-term cancer treatment side effects. As part of this care, your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Careful physical exams on a frequent basis

  • Lab tests including tumor marker levels, such as CA-125, to check for recurrence

  • X-rays and other tests

During ovarian cancer treatment, you probably kept your own copies of all your medical records. It’s important to continue this practice after treatment. You may also consider enrolling in a clinical trial that follows ovarian cancer survivors like yourself. Such research will direct the care of future generations of women.

Emotional Health

Surviving ovarian cancer is emotional. Some emotions are positive. However, many survivors struggle with stress, worry and insecurity about cancer recurrence. There are a variety of resources to help survivors learn to live with uncertainty and manage a “new normal.” This includes:

  • Counseling including individual, family and group programs

  • Support groups to meet emotional, educational and social support needs

Your cancer care team can help you identify which resources will best meet your needs.

Lifestyle Changes

Cancer tends to make people realize that your health is a true form of wealth. After treatment, it may be time to examine your lifestyle habits and make some changes:

  • Cut back on alcohol.

  • Eat healthy.

  • Establish a healthy weight. You may need to continue to work with a dietitian after treatment if you struggled to keep up a healthy weight during treatment.

  • Get more exercise to build muscle, increase endurance, and counteract fatigue. Working with a fitness professional can help ease you into a routine and gradually increase your activity.

  • Quit smoking to decrease the risk of a second cancer.

  • Rest.

Staying as healthy as possible can help you recover from treatment and stay strong. These strategies will benefit your emotional health as well as your physical health.