Living with ovarian cancer 

How ovarian cancer will affect your daily life depends on the stage your condition is at and what treatment you're having.

How women cope with the diagnosis and treatment varies from person to person. There are several forms of support, if you need it. Not all types of support work for everybody, but one or more should prove helpful:

  • Talk to your friends and family, as they can be a powerful support system.
  • Communicate with other women in the same situation.
  • Find out about your condition.
  • Set reasonable goals.
  • Take time out for yourself.

Want to know more?

Recovery and follow-up hide

Many women with ovarian cancer have a hysterectomy. This is a major operation, and takes around 6-12 weeks to recover from.

During this time, you'll have to avoid lifting things, such as children and heavy shopping bags, and doing heavy housework. You won't be able to drive for 3-8 weeks after the operation. Most women need 4-12 weeks off work after a hysterectomy.

If your ovaries have been removed and you haven't already been through the menopause, you'll experience the menopause after your treatment. You may decide to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to control your symptoms. Your GP will help you decide what's best for you.

Some treatments for ovarian cancer, particularly chemotherapy, can make you feel very tired. You may need a break from your normal activities for a while. Don't be afraid to ask for practical help from family and friends if you need it.

Practical help may also be available from your local authority. Ask your doctor or nurse who to contact.

After your treatment has finished, you'll be invited for regular check-ups to see how well you are responding to treatments. These are usually every 2-3 months to begin with.

Want to know more?


back to top

Sex and relationships  show

Relationships with friends and family

Having cancer isn't always easy to talk about, either for you or your family and friends. You may sense that some people avoid you or feel awkward around you.

Being open about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help may put them at ease. However, don't feel shy about telling them you need some time to yourself.

Want to know more?

Your sex life

Ovarian cancer and its treatment can affect your sex life in several ways.

Early menopause

If you haven't already been through the menopause, removing your ovaries means you'll have an early menopause. You're likely to have symptoms of the menopause, which can include vaginal dryness and loss of sexual desire.

Not feeling like sex

It's common for women to lose interest in sex after treatment for ovarian cancer. Your treatment may leave you feeling very tired, and you may feel shocked, confused or depressed about being diagnosed with cancer.

You may also feel grief about the loss of your fertility. It's understandable that you may not feel like having sex while coping with all this. Share your feelings with your partner. If your feelings about sex aren't improving with time, you may want to consider speaking to a counsellor or sex therapist.

Want to know more?

back to top

Money and benefits  show

If you have to reduce or stop working due to your cancer, you may find it difficult to cope financially. If you have cancer or you're caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to financial support. For example:

  • if you have a job but can't work because of your illness, you're entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) from your employer 
  • if you don't have a job and can't work because of your illness, you may be entitled to employment and support allowance (ESR)
  • if you're caring for someone with cancer, you may be entitled to carer's allowance  
  • you may be eligible for other benefits if you have children living at home, or have a low household income

It's a good idea to find out as soon as possible what help is available to you. You could ask to speak to the social worker at your hospital, who can give you the information you need.

Free prescriptions

If you have cancer, you can apply for an exemption certificate, which gives you free prescriptions for all medication, including those for unrelated conditions.

The certificate is valid for five years. You can apply for it by speaking to your GP or cancer specialist.

Want to know more?

back to top

Dealing with dying   show

If you're told that nothing more can be done to treat your ovarian cancer, care will focus on controlling your symptoms and helping you feel as comfortable as possible. This is called palliative care. It also includes psychological, social and spiritual support for you and your family or carers.

Want to know more?

back to top

Page last reviewed: 21/01/2015

Next review due: 21/01/2017