Taking care post ovarian cancer surgery | Dr. Shona Nag
Ovarian cancer surgery is the mainstay of treatment for most ovarian cancers. The aim of Ovarian Cancer surgery is to check how far cancer has spread and to remove the maximum tumour possible. The surgery will depend on the stage of cancer and overall health at that time. Usually, the doctor will remove the uterus, ovaries and both fallopian tubes and lymph nodes and the intestinal lining called the omentum as well. Other tissues from the abdomen might be removed or sampled if cancer has affected that part. Many women have a large amount of fluid in their abdomen at diagnosis and may be given 3 to 4 cycles of chemotherapy before surgery. This helps in reducing the bulk of the tumour and making a successful and complete surgery more feasible.
A few tests will be done before the surgery. Certain medications or supplements may need to be stopped and diabetes and blood pressure may need to be properly controlled.
Hospitalization usually lasts 7 to 8 days after the surgery. The doctor will prescribe medicines for pain, nausea and also for bleeding from the vagina.
Things to avoid post-surgery:
• Avoid lifting heavyweights
• Avoid having sex for a few weeks
• Avoid doing strenuous exercise – gentle walking or yogasanas are fine
Daily activities can be resumed depending on recovery within a week of discharge
In case the colon has been removed a colostomy bag may be fitted – seek special information on how to manage the colostomy from the doctor or nurse
The surgery has certain risks like bleeding, infection and damage to nearby organs like the bladder or ureters but these are rare and avoided by opting for surgery by a competent on surgeon and at a well-equipped cancer centre
Inform the doctor immediately if the following symptoms occur after discharge from the hospital
• Fever higher than 100 degrees F or shivering
• Redness, swelling, or liquid oozing from the surgical site
• Severe nausea, vomiting, or belly pain
• Heavy bleeding (soaking through more than two pads an hour)
Life after Surgery
Premenopausal women go into menopause since both ovaries have been removed. In women desirous of pregnancy or unmarried usually the uterus and sometimes the unaffected ovary are preserved.
As a result of menopause women experience the following symptoms which are expected:
• Hot flashes
• Night sweats
• Dry vagina
• Mood shifts
The doctor can help manage these symptoms.
A therapist or counsellor is helpful to talk to about the emotional changes Ovarian Cancer surgery can cause. Joining a support group for women with ovarian cancer also helps a great deal.
After the surgery, there will be regular doctor visits to check recurrence. Usually every 3 months for the first 2 years and then every 6 months for the next 2 years. An ultrasound of the abdomen pelvis and blood tumour markers is recommended at this time as well.