“Maintaining” her health and fitness following treatment — as well as monitoring carefully for the cancer’s return — is a serious, lifelong commitment for any woman with ovarian cancer. That’s especially true because ovarian cancers, once treated and put into remission, can often come back.
It is essential that women who’ve been treated for ovarian cancer keep in consistent and involved contact with their doctors to ensure that should the cancer return, it is treated immediately. Doctors will use a number of different methods to monitor their patients and detect if the cancer is growing again. Dr. Jonathon Berek, Director of Stanford Women’s Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet about the methods used by doctors to monitor ovarian cancer.
According to Dr. Berek, there are three primary factors of which doctors keep track to detect a recurrence of ovarian cancer. These are:
If these tests to monitor ovarian cancer show no signs of anything out of the ordinary, then Dr. Berek says doctors will just conduct routine follow-ups with the patient until something comes up. “If a patient remains in clinical remission, if there’s no evidence of disease, if there’s no evidence of elevation of CA-125 or any abnormality on the follow-up scan, then you just follow them,” says Dr. Berek. This doesn’t mean that you stop seeing your doctor. Routine follow-up care even after imaging tests and physical exams provide no substantial evidence of cancer is still key to maintaining good health. This type of active monitoring is key to making sure ovarian cancer stays in remission for as long as possible following rounds of treatment, and that it’s tackled quickly and accurately if it comes back. For example, patients usually return every 3 months for the first 2 years followed by every 6 months until the 5th year.
After initial surgery and chemotherapy, the maintenance period begins for women with ovarian cancer. Maintenance treatment seeks to prevent the cancer from recurring for as long as possible, and can be anything from rigorous surveillance to use of PARP inhibitors.
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