Self Care, Lifestyle Changes and Ovarian Cancer

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,893
    Dr. Douglas Levine discusses self-care measures you can take while being treated for ovarian cancer.

    Dr. Douglas A. Levine: Hi! I am Dr. Douglas Levine and I am a Gynecologic Oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. I am also a member of the Ovarian Cancer Research Funds Scientific Advisory Committee. Today, I am going to speak a little about lifestyle changes and self-care while being treated for ovarian cancer.

    Receiving a diagnosis of ovarian cancer is devastating news for a woman and her family. It is important to have a support system; family, friends, colleagues and doctors to help you deal with both the physical and emotional challenges that you will face.

    Ovarian cancer and its treatment can lead to other health problems and your healthcare team will help you manage them. Pain, swollen abdomen or legs or shortness of breath are all relatively common. To stay as healthy as possible during and after treatment, making sure you get proper nutrition is important.

    After treatment you may not feel like eating or foods may taste different. Your doctor, a registered dietitian or a nurse can help you deal with these problems. Staying as active as possible during and after your treatments can also help you feel better and have more energy.

    Some cancer survivors find that walking is a good form of exercise and relaxation. The healthcare team can approve exercise plans or suggest ones that might be better suited for you as you regain your physical strength.

    If cancer has limited your ability to exercise, your doctor or physical therapist can suggest new ways to exercise. In addition to being active, it is also important to rest. Easing back into the life you lived before cancer will make this time of transition easier and less stressful.

    Cancer survivors should get plenty of sleep and pace themselves. If you feel overwhelmed, set short term goals for yourself. Take it one day at a time.

    Robin Zarel: After my diagnoses and treatment, I started eating much better. I consulted with a nutritionist; I started eating lot of fruits and vegetables. I work out with a trainer regularly and just was much more mindful of doing as much as I could to be healthy and also to do everything that the doctor say and keep regular appointments. I noticed that I actually felt better when I was exercising and doing more traveling and taking adventure trips and stuff. It was actually fun and I don't know that I would have does those things if I hadn't experienced what I did.

    Dr. Douglas A Levine: Beyond the physical challenges you may also find that dealing with ovarian cancer is emotionally difficult. Many women have feelings of anxiety or depression and worry about caring for their family, keeping their job, managing side-effects or paying hospital bills. Many women with ovarian cancer experience this and it's only natural to struggle with adapting to your new reality.

    Robin Zarel: Some of the emotional challenges that I faced and a lot of other ovarian cancer patients face; just struggling with the -- facing your mortality, the loss of fertility for me was a big issue, that was probably the hardest one because I wanted to have children and was unable to, and just really processing all the things that I had to process. A lot of loss, a lot of sadness, dealing with anger and one of the things that I think is important is really to allow yourself to have all the feelings that you have and it's normal to be depressed when you get a cancer diagnosis.

    If you are constantly depressed and you stay depressed then it's time to get help, but I think you need to be able to have all the different feelings and be able to tell people what you need. I think it's really important to see a GYN oncologist. I think it's important to follow up with your doctors and I think to remember that there is always hope.

    Dr. Douglas A Levine: It's important to know that you are not alone. Talk to your family and friends, a social worker or member of the clergy. You may also want to seek out a support group in your area to connect with other women who share your experience. Consider relaxation exercises, plan activities for yourself that you know you will enjoy, whether it's meeting a friend for coffee or learning a new skill.

    More resources are available online at the OCRF website; www.


    org. If you want to learn more about ovarian cancer, check out our other videos including the next one on advances in ovarian cancer research.