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Recovering from ovarian cancer surgery

Many women with ovarian cancer will have major surgery. A woman will usually stay in hospital for up to a week after surgery for ovarian cancer. After surgery, the site of the surgery will feel sore but pain can be controlled. Pain relief is usually given through an epidural, rectal suppositories or patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), which enables the woman to control the level of pain medicine given. Medicine levels can be changed if needed to help control the pain. It will be uncomfortable to move around at first but getting out of bed and walking a little bit can also help to relieve the pain caused by wind (gas) in the abdomen.

There are some things that should be avoided after surgery to give the body a chance to recover. Some general tips are given below:

  • Avoid lifting heavy things for about six weeks to allow the body to heal. It's a good idea to leave tasks such as vacuuming or cleaning to someone else until you feel able to do them. If you live alone or need assistance with work around the house this may be able to be arranged.
  • Avoid driving a car until given clearance to do so by a doctor.
  • Sexual intercourse is usually best avoided for about six weeks. Discuss this with the doctor or treatment team.

The recovery time will depend on the type of surgery, whether or not postoperative problems developed, and what type of work you will return to.

Younger women who have both ovaries removed as part of surgery, will no longer have periods after surgery. This will lead to menopause and may result in menopausal symptoms. Women who have their uterus removed but still have one ovary will no longer have periods but will not get menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes. You may decide to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to control your symptoms. There is no reason why you cannot take HRT after your ovarian cancer treatment. Your doctor will be able to help you decide what's best for you.

Follow-up after treatment

After your course of treatment has finished you will be invited for regular check-ups, usually every two to three months to begin with. At the check-up your doctor will examine you. They may do blood tests or scans to see how your cancer is responding to treatment.

Last reviewed: September 2015

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