Ovarian Cancer Treatment Side Effects
All the currently available ovarian cancer treatments have side effects. Unfortunately, there's no way around it. But the specific side effects you experience will depend largely on the type(s) of treatments you receive, as well as the doses you need. It also depends on how you respond to those treatments. Some women may have only minor side effects, while others can experience reactions that are so severe, they make it necessary to delay treatment for the time being.
Either way, it's important to keep in mind that many of the side effects you may experience are manageable, and in some cases, even preventable. Your healthcare provider will do his or her part by closely monitoring you with blood tests and other tests and giving you medicines when needed. You can do your part by learning home strategies for preventing and managing side effects of your treatment.
The goal of surgery in treating ovarian cancer is to remove as much of the cancer as possible. For most women, this means an extensive surgery during which the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and surrounding tissue are removed. Such an in-depth surgery isn't always required, however. For example, when ovarian cancer is caught early, it may be possible to remove just one ovary and fallopian tube.
The actual side effects you can expect from surgery will depend, in part, on the complexity of your procedure. As with most surgeries, you can expect to experience some short-term pain afterward. Your surgeon will give you pain medicine for this.
You might have difficulty emptying your bowels and bladder in the days after surgery. The pain medicines you are taking won't make this any easier, since they can cause constipation as well. Your healthcare provider can give you stool softeners and laxatives to help.
If you had both of your ovaries removed, you may experience symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, after the surgery. Some form of hormone replacement therapy may be used to ease such symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider about hormone replacement therapy -- while hormones can help relieve menopausal symptoms, they also pose health risks, so you won't want to take them on a long-term basis.
Women who have both ovaries removed are no longer able to become pregnant. It's not uncommon for women to experience a sense of loss afterward. Allow yourself to grieve. Keep in mind that your partner may need time to grieve as well. You and your partner may also find it helpful to seek counseling or support, either individually or as a couple.