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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. Surgery is the most common treatment for ovarian cancer. Most doctors recommend the removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (complete hysterectomy). Lymph nodes in the pelvic and abdominal areas may also be removed during surgery. This is followed by chemotherapy. You discussed your treatment plan with your doctor in detail. This sheet will help you remember how to care for yourself after surgery and chemotherapy.

Home care after surgery

Here’s what to do at home following surgery for ovarian cancer.


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

  • To avoid straining your incisions, don’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.

  • Don’t vacuum or do other strenuous housework until the doctor says it’s OK.

  • Limit stair climbing for the first 2 weeks after surgery. Climb stairs slowly and pause after every few steps.

  • Walk as often as you feel able.

  • Shower as usual.

  • Don’t drive for at least 3 weeks after surgery. Don’t drive if you are still taking opioid pain medication.

  • Ask your doctor when you can expect to return to work.

  • Speak to your doctor if you have questions about your care.

  • Ask your surgeon for specific instructions about your care after surgery.

Incision care

  • Wash the incision site with soap and water. Pat it dry. Avoid scrubbing the incision.

  • Don’t use oils, powders, lotions, or creams on your incision.

  • Inspect the incision site every day for increased redness, drainage, swelling, or separation of the skin.

Other home care

  • Take your medications exactly as directed.

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

  • Don’t put anything in your vagina until your doctor says it’s safe to do so. Don’t use tampons or douches. Don’t have sexual intercourse.

  • Report hot flashes, mood swings, or irritability to your doctor. There may be medications that can help you.

  • Return to your diet as tolerated. Eat a healthy well-balanced diet.

  • Avoid constipation:

    • 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 doctor says it’s OK.

Home care after chemotherapy

Here’s what to do at home following chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. 

Prevent mouth sores

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

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

  • Don’t use dental floss if your platelet count is below 50,000. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if this is the case.

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

  • Use any mouthwashes given to you as directed.

  • If you can’t tolerate regular methods, 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.

  • Watch your mouth and tongue for white patches. This is a sign of fungal infection, a common side effect of chemotherapy. Be sure to tell your doctor about these patches. Medication can be prescribed to help you fight the fungal infection.

Manage other side effects

  • Try to exercise, which keeps you strong and your heart and lungs active. Walk as much as you can without becoming dizzy or weak.

  • Don’t be surprised if your treatment causes slight burns to your skin. Some drugs used in high doses can cause this to happen. Ask for a special cream to help relieve the burn and protect your skin.

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

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

    • Choose bland foods with little taste or smell if you are reacting strongly to food.

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

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

  • 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.

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


When to call your doctor

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

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or chills

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

  • Smelly discharge from a surgical site or the 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

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Ongoing fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat; chest pain

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Constant feeling of being cold

  • New or unusual lumps, bumps, or swelling

  • Persistent nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea



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