Managing Ovarian Cancer Side Effects

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: May 2021

Living with advanced ovarian cancer can be challenging. You may be dealing with side effects from cancer itself or the treatment for it. Some side effects are temporary, while others may be long-term or permanent.

While side effects can be unwanted and stressful, there are ways to reduce or manage them. Talk to your doctor about what you are feeling and any concerns you have. Together, you can create a plan to manage your side effects.

Common side effects of ovarian cancer treatment

Side effects can vary depending on your specific treatment and the drugs you are taking. Not everyone will have the same side effects. However, there are some common side effects of ovarian cancer treatment, including:1

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and/or loss of appetite
  • Sexual side effects
  • Infertility

Other possible side effects can include:1,2

  • Nerve problems (neuropathy)
  • Memory issues, often called “chemo brain”
  • Ostomies from surgery
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Anxiety or depression

These are not all the possible side effects of ovarian cancer treatment. Talk to your doctor about what to expect or if you experience any changes that concern you during treatment.

Managing side effects of ovarian cancer treatment

Side effects can be challenging, but there are often ways to manage them. Some things you can do to help manage side effects include:2,3

  • Tell your treatment team about any side effects you have. They can give you tips on how to manage them. They may also give you drugs to manage your symptoms or tell you if you need medical attention.
  • Stay hydrated (check with your doctors to see if you have any fluid restrictions).
  • Eat small, frequent meals and snacks during the day instead of 3 large meals.
  • Avoid washing your hair too often. Protect your head from the sun and cold with a hat, scarf, or turban.
  • Schedule rest periods and learn to pace your activity in a way that is best for you.
  • Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
  • Talk with your doctors about concerns about sexuality and fertility.

If you are having trouble with an ostomy or have questions about it, talk to your doctor or ostomy nurse. They can show you how to care for it and manage any issues you may have.

If surgery or chemotherapy caused you to enter menopause, your treatment team can help you manage the sudden onset of symptoms.

Fertility side effects can be emotionally and physically challenging. Talk with your doctor about your options if you want to start a family. There may be options that make it possible for you to have children after finishing treatment.

Things to consider

Your side effects can vary depending on what specific treatments you have had. Medicines, your general health, and your response to treatment can also impact the side effects you have.

Many side effects are manageable, and some are temporary. Talk with your doctors about what side effects you can expect during and after ovarian cancer treatment. Together, you and your care team can create a plan to manage them.

You may also want to think about finding a support group for ovarian cancer survivors. It can be a place to share your feelings about side effects like loss of fertility or the sudden onset of menopause. Having a network of people who have gone through similar treatments and concerns can help you feel supported.

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