When you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it can be a very stressful time for you, your friends, and your family.
It can be easy to focus on the clinical side of this diagnosis, but for many people, this can quickly become overwhelming, and it can make it hard to navigate. So, here, you will be walked through the diagnostic process for ovarian cancer and aftercare in simple-to-follow language to help you better manage the condition.
What Is Ovarian Cancer?
Starting at the beginning, what is ovarian cancer? Well, as the name suggests, it is a cancer of the ovaries (egg), and while it is usually confined to the egg, it can be caused by and may also spread to the surrounding fallopian tubes. It is the 5th most diagnosed cancer in women, with the majority of those who are diagnosed being over the age of 50.
The signs of ovarian cancer can include discomfort during sex, lower abdominal pain, needing to pass urine more frequently, and a change in appetite. In simple terms, you may feel full more often or have no appetite. If you have these symptoms, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible for some diagnostic tests.
What are the diagnostics for ovarian cancer?
Usually, the first test is an ultrasound so your doctor can see if there are any abnormal growths on the ovaries. You will also likely be given some blood tests, which will look for a high level of a protein called CA125. High levels of this can mean that the tumor or cancer is malignant.
You may also be offered a CT scan (computer tomography) scan, which will involve your doctor examining your stomach and pelvis. If any abnormal lumps or growths are spotted, this can lead your doctor to perform a biopsy.
Physical and Psychological Care
Post-diagnosis of ovarian cancer, you will be offered 1 of 3 treatments or a potential combination.
The first option will be surgery to remove the growth, but this will only be advised if the cancer has been caught early. In later stages of the cancer, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause you to lose some hair and weight and can mean it is easier for you to bruise. It can also cause you to feel nauseated. If you experience any other side effects, please report these to your doctor.
Psychologically, you may experience feelings of panic, depression, and anxiety. These are all perfectly normal following a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and if they become overwhelming, you should discuss them with your doctor or nurse.
For many people with this diagnosis, it can be a surprise at how tough it is to navigate emotionally. It can be worth engaging in therapy with a counselor or therapist who has experience working with people who have cancer, as well as attending support groups either online or in your community. So, don’t be worried about asking your healthcare team for recommendations on which group(s) might be the best for you.