Coping with ovarian cancer

You might have lots of emotions to cope with when you are diagnosed with cancer. And treatment for ovarian cancer can cause changes in your body which can affect how you feel in yourself.

There is support available to help you cope during and after treatment.

Your feelings

You might have a number of different feelings when you're told you have cancer. You may feel shocked and upset. You might also feel:

  • numb
  • frightened and uncertain
  • confused
  • angry and resentful
  • guilty

You may have some or all of these feelings. Or you might feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it's hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.

Experiencing different feelings is a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.

Helping yourself

You may be more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information helps you to know what to expect.

Taking in information can be difficult, especially when you have just been diagnosed. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask. They can also help you to remember the information that was given. Getting a lot of new information can feel overwhelming.

Ask your doctors and nurses to explain things again if you need them to.

Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.

Talking to other people

Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you and them.

Help your family and friends by letting them know if you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.

You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family. We have cancer information nurses you can call on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Or you may prefer to see a counsellor.

Specialist nurses can help you if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if you have any problems. They can get you the help you need. They can also give you information.

Support groups

NHS website has a service that tells you about local information and support.

Physical problems

Treatment for ovarian cancer can cause changes which may affect your body image. This might lead to a loss of confidence and self-esteem.

Hair loss

Chemotherapy can cause hair loss, which for some women can be extremely upsetting and difficult to cope with. This is understandable because our appearance is closely linked to our feelings of self esteem. It’s not unusual for people who have lost their hair to feel angry and depressed. You may feel worried about how your friends and family see you.

Remember that the people closest to you will not see you any differently as a person. They will want to support you as much as they can, so it is important to tell them how you’re feeling.

Surgery to remove your womb and ovaries

Having your ovaries and womb removed can be a very emotional experience, even if you were past the menopause when you were diagnosed. Your doctor and specialist nurse will help support you and your partner if were planning on having children in the future, and can discuss your options.

Surgery will leave a scar on your tummy (abdomen), that will gradually fade with time. But it can be a reminder of what you have been through. Some women may feel self-conscious of it.

Hormonal changes

You will have a sudden menopause if you were still having periods before your surgery to remove both ovaries. This can cause symptoms, such as hot flushes and sweats. The symptoms can be quite intense as your hormone levels fall quickly. The effects can go on for a few months or years.

Having menopausal symptoms can be difficult to cope with. It can be hard to know whether your symptoms are due to your cancer and its treatment. Or whether they relate to the menopause. It might help to keep a diary or make a list of your symptoms. You can discuss these with your cancer doctor, clinical nurse specialist, GP or general practice nurse. 

You can ask your GP surgery if there is a GP that specialises in the menopause. In some situations, your GP may refer you to a specialist menopause clinic or a gynaecologist. 

They can help you find ways to cope.


Tiredness and weakness can be a problem during treatment. Resting but also doing some gentle physical activity can help.

Relationships and sex

The physical changes and emotional feelings you have can affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to manage this.

Coping practically

You and your family might need to cope with practical things including:

  • money matters
  • financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
  • work issues
  • childcare

Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.

Our coping practically section has more information about all these issues. 

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