In addition to a fear of cancer recurrence, patients said feeling isolated was also a challenge associated with having ovarian cancer.
Although it is the third most common gynecological cancer, ovarian cancer remains underresearched, wrote the study authors, and “past studies suggest that women who present with ovarian cancer have more supportive care needs compared to women experiencing other gynecological cancers.”
In addition, although multiple options exist for treating the condition, reoccurrence can take place in up to 70% of patients.
To better understand the experiences and priorities of these patients and determine whether age influences their needs, investigators assessed survey findings from a cohort of individuals recruited by Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA).
The survey took place in 2017 and recruited participants through a social media campaign. All individuals ranked their priorities related to living with ovarian cancer. They also endorsed which resources they had used to meet these needs, including the OCA “resilience kit,” a booklet with evidence-based information on living with the condition.
A total of 280 patients completed the survey, with the largest proportion between the ages of 60 and 69 years. Data showed that the patients’ priorities did not change with age.
An additional analyses revealed these findings:
Most patients said they lived in a major city and that they had received treatment at a private hospital. Just over 45% of patients received a diagnosis of stage III ovarian cancer. Younger patients were more likely than older patients to have an earlier-stage diagnosis.
Along with the OCA resilience kit, participants said they sought support from friends, family, and hospital treatment teams.
“Our main finding was that, in contrast to previous findings, age does not affect common concerns—fear of cancer recurrence, treatment side effects, and the uncertainties surrounding ovarian cancer,” the authors wrote.
They also note fear of cancer recurrence among women with ovarian cancer is more extreme compared with other cancers. For instance, women with breast cancer have a lower fear of cancer reoccurrence, potentially due to the fact that the average rate of reoccurrence in this cancer is 30% compared with 70% in ovarian cancer.
“Fear of cancer recurrence has been consistently associated with poorer quality of life, depression, anxiety, and impaired daily functioning,” the researchers wrote. “The long-term effect of fear of cancer recurrence is exacerbated by the inability to come to terms with the priorities that people diagnosed with cancer experience.”
Selection bias may have been present in the current study, marking a limitation. The sample also may have not been representative of all women with ovarian cancer, and few younger women participated in the survey.
Overall, more research is needed to develop interventions to address the priorities outlined in the survey, the authors concluded.
“Modes of information delivery need to consider age of the target audience—with younger women preferring to interact with technology and being more eager to receive information via mobile-app type interventions and tools compared to older women,” they wrote.
Pasvanis M, Hegarty S, Russell H, Peate M, Marino JL. Exploring the experiences and priorities of women with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Support Care Cancer. Published online June 30, 2023. doi:10.1007/s00520-023-07903-3