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No Evidence of Disease (NED)...Now What?

Last updated: February 2022

This article was originally published on LungCancer.net.

NED or “no evidence of disease” is the goal when someone is going through treatment for ovarian cancer. Doctors rarely use the word “cure” when it comes to cancer. NED is the term used to describe when a person has no more evidence of ovarian cancer on any scans or tests.

Side effects after treatment

After months of sometimes grueling treatments, dozens of doctor's appointments, countless tests, and the emotional rollercoaster of ovarian cancer, it may seem like hearing your doctor say NED would mean you are through the storm. However, it may not that simple.

During treatment, you are in an active state of fighting for your life. You are going to scheduled treatments, and your doctors are closely following your progress. Family and friends are rallying around for support, and all your energy has a focus. Some people feel let down when this time of focus and support stops. It may seem like everyone is going back to their lives, and you are left with a big feeling of “Now what?”

In addition, many people who are NED after ovarian cancer treatment may have to cope with significant side effects from their treatments. For example, persistent fatigue can be common. The treatments may be done, but the effects linger on.

Fear of recurrence

Then there is the fear. Once you have had cancer, there is always a chance it will come back. Even finding out you are now NED isn’t fool-proof. While there are no signs of cancer on the scans, your doctors can not know for sure there isn't still a micro-metastasis too small to be seen left somewhere in your body. Any follow-up scan or test may bring on what is called "scanxiety."

After ovarian cancer, you may be hypervigilant about any new twinge of pain in your body, wondering if it might be a sign of recurrence. Fear of ovarian cancer recurring is real and may change your perspective on everything regarding your health.

Coping

Fear is a natural reaction to a scary situation, and ovarian cancer can be frightening. Emotions are our body's way of processing information. When we allow our emotions to flow, they can be “e-motion” or “energy in motion.” Some tips to dealing with the fear of ovarian cancer recurrence include:

Acknowledge the fear

Recognize what you are feeling and give it some space. Keeping fear locked inside can make it linger or grow.

Bring it out into the open

Talk with a friend, your support group, a counselor, or even write about it in a journal. Shining light on your fear keeps it from being overwhelming.

Know the signs

Knowledge can bring peace of mind and help you feel more prepared. Learn about the signs and symptoms of a recurrence and what to look for. Ask your doctor what symptoms you should bring to their attention.

Change your focus

Experts say our brains can not focus on fear and gratitude at the same time, so shifting your attention to all that you are grateful for can help ease fear.

Try mind-body techniques for stress relief

Many of the complementary therapies like meditation, massage, acupuncture, yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong can help reduce stress and anxiety.

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