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Ovarian cancer

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Follow-up care for ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer behaves differently in each woman, and a standard follow-up schedule would not work for everyone. Women with ovarian cancer should talk to their doctor about a follow-up plan that suits their individual situation. Follow-up care is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists), gynecologist, surgeon and the family doctor.

After treatment has ended, new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away should be reported to the doctor without waiting for the next scheduled appointment. These may include:

  • pain in the abdomen, pelvis or back
  • swelling of the abdomen
  • change in bowel habits
  • weight loss

The chance of ovarian cancer recurring is greatest within 5 years, so close follow-up is needed during this time.

Schedule

Follow-up after ovarian cancer treatment varies. Follow-up visits are usually scheduled:

  • every 3 months for the first year after initial treatment
  • every 4 months for the second and third years
  • every 6 months for the fourth and fifth years
  • then once a year

Procedures

During a follow-up visit, the doctor usually asks questions about the side effects of treatment and how the woman is coping. The doctor may do a complete physical examination, including:

  • a pelvic exam
  • feeling the abdomen for swelling
  • feeling the lymph nodes in the neck and groin

Tests may be ordered as part of follow-up or if the doctor suspects the cancer has come back (recurred).

If a recurrence is found during follow-up, the oncology team will assess the person with cancer to determine the best treatment options.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about follow-up after treatment.

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