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Discharge Instructions for Cancer of the Ovary

You have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This is the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the ovary. You likely had surgery. It's the most common treatment for ovarian cancer. Most often, the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries are removed. This is called a complete hysterectomy with a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Lymph nodes in your belly and pelvis may also have been removed. After you heal, chemotherapy is often given to kill any cancer cells that may be left in the body. This sheet will help you care for yourself after surgery and chemotherapy. Also follow any instructions you've gotten from your cancer treatment team.

Home care after surgery

Here’s what to do at home after surgery for ovarian cancer:

Activity

  • Ask others to help with chores and errands while you recover.

  • To prevent straining your incisions, don’t lift anything heavier than 12 pounds for at least 6 weeks after surgery.

  • Don’t vacuum or do other strenuous housework until your healthcare provider says it’s OK. It's usually about 6 weeks.

  • Limit climbing stairs to once or twice a day for the first 2 weeks after surgery. Go slow and rest after every few steps.

  • Walk as often as you feel able. While this may seem hard to do, it's important to move as much as you can as you recover from surgery. 

  • Plan rest breaks to avoid shortness of breath.

  • Don’t over-do it. If you get tired, rest.

  • Shower as usual unless told not to do so by your healthcare provider. Ask a friend or family member to stay close by in case you need help.

  • Don’t drive for at least 3 weeks after surgery unless it is OK with your healthcare provider. Don’t drive if you're still taking pain medicine.

  • Ask your healthcare provider when you can expect to return to work.

Incision care

  • Wash the incision site with warm water. Pat it dry. Do not scrub or rub it.

  • Don’t use oils, powders, lotions, or creams on your incision unless told to do so by your healthcare provider.

  • Check your incision site every day for increased redness, drainage, swelling, or opening of the skin. Change the bandage as instructed.

  • Be sure you have a post-operative appointment set up to have the sutures or staples removed. 

Other home care

  • Take your medicines exactly as directed. Use your pain medicine as needed so you can be up and moving around. Don't stay in bed. 

  • Do the coughing and deep breathing exercises you learned in the hospital.

  • Don’t put anything in your vagina until your healthcare provider says it’s safe to do so. Don’t use tampons or douches. Don’t have sex until your healthcare provider says it's OK.

  • If you ride in the car for more than short trips, stop often to stretch your legs.

  • Report hot flashes, mood swings, or irritability to your healthcare provider. There may be medicines that can help you.

  • Follow the diet your healthcare provider talked to you about.

  • To keep from getting constipated:

    • Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

    • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day, unless directed otherwise.

    • Use a laxative or a mild stool softener if your healthcare provider says it’s OK.

    • Don't use rectal suppositories unless your healthcare provider says it's OK.

Home care after chemotherapy

Here’s what to do at home after chemotherapy for ovarian cancer: 

Prevent or manage mouth sores

Many people get mouth sores during chemo. So, don’t be discouraged if you do, even if you are following all your healthcare provider’s instructions. Do these things to help prevent mouth sores or to ease discomfort:

  • Brush your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush after every meal and at bedtime.

  • If your platelet count is low, or if your gums are inflamed, flossing may cause gum bleeding. You may need to limit flossing.

  • Use an oral swab or special soft toothbrush if your gums bleed during regular brushing.

  • Use any mouthwashes given to you as directed.

  • Keep your mouth moist. Use salt and baking soda to clean your mouth. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda into an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Swish and spit as often as you like.

  • Watch your mouth and tongue for white patches. This can be a sign of fungal or yeast infections, common side effects of chemo. Tell your healthcare provider about these patches. You may need medicine to help you fight the fungal infection.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider or nurse about mouth dryness, pain, or sores. There are often things that can be done to help with these problems and keep them from getting worse. 

  • If you have dentures, keep them clean and limit the time you wear them.

Manage other side effects

  • Try to exercise, which keeps you strong and your heart and lungs active. It helps you feel less tired. Walk as much as you can comfortably.

  • Let your healthcare provider know if your throat is sore. You may have an infection that needs treatment.

  • Remember, many patients feel sick and lose their appetite during treatment. Eat small meals several times a day to keep your strength up:

    • Choose bland foods with little taste or smell.

    • Be sure to cook all food thoroughly. This kills bacteria and helps you avoid infection.

    • Eat soft foods. They are less likely to cause irritation.

    • Talk with your healthcare provider if you're having trouble getting in enough foods and liquids. 

  • Use anti-nausea medicines as needed. Don't wait until you start vomiting.

  • Keep clean. During treatment, your body can’t fight germs very well.

    • Take short baths or showers with warm water. Avoid very hot or cold water.

    • Use moisturizing soap. Treatment can make your skin dry.

    • Use lotion several times a day to help relieve dry skin.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Chills

  • Bright red vaginal bleeding or bleeding that soaks more than 1 pad per hour

  • Smelly discharge from a surgical site (incision) or your vagina

  • Trouble urinating or burning when you urinate

  • Severe pain or bloating in your belly

  • Signs of infection around the incision (redness, drainage, warmth, pain)

  • Incision that opens up or pulls apart

  • Cloudy thinking or trouble concentrating

  • Ongoing fatigue

  • Trouble breathing

  • Shortness of breath, especially at rest

  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat; chest pain

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Constant feeling of being cold

  • New or unusual lumps, bumps, or swelling

  • Easy bruising or bleeding 

  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea that doesn't go away

  • Constipation that doesn't get better, especially after using laxatives

  • New redness, pain, swelling, or warmth in your legs or arms

Ask your healthcare provider who you should call and what number you should use if you have problems at home. Be sure you know how to get help anytime, including after office hours and on weekends and holidays.

Talking with your healthcare team

Getting treatment for ovarian cancer can be tough on the mind and body. Keep talking with your healthcare team about ways to make the process easier. Work together to ease the affect of symptoms on your daily life. There are often things that can be done to help you manage treatment-related problems. Talk with your team to get the help you need.

Online Medical Reviewer: Howard Goodman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham RN BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.