How to Care for a Loved One with Ovarian Cancer
No one wants to imagine caring for a sick loved one, but unfortunately, as we age, our bodies become more prone to ailments such as cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the fifth deadliest cancer in women with more than 21,000 new diagnoses each year in the United States. With so many women susceptible to contracting the disease, especially in the older population, it’s important to be educated about ovarian cancer so if a loved one is diagnosed, you’ll feel more prepared to handle the situation.
Understanding Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries but often can go undetected until it spreads to the pelvis or abdomen. Ovarian cancer occurs when cells mutate and begin to multiply quickly, causing a tumor of abnormal cells on the ovary. If left untreated, those unhealthy cells can spread and invade nearby tissue. Early-stage ovarian cancer rarely has symptoms, and even advanced stages of cancer produce symptoms that are easily overlooked, such as bloating, weight loss, more frequent urination, and a change in bowel habits.
According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors have yet to discover a cause for ovarian cancer. However, women older than 50 and those with a family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer are more at risk of developing the disease. Since it’s unclear what causes ovarian cancer, it’s difficult to prevent. If you do have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, you can talk to your doctor about genetic counseling to test if you carry the BRCA1 or BRCA1 gene. It’s also important to get routine pelvic exams as you get older and let your doctor know if you’re ever feeling pain or discomfort in your pelvis or abdomen.
Caring for a Loved One with Ovarian Cancer
At Visiting Angels Gadsden, we understand the uncertainty that comes with caring for an aging loved one. Those uncertainties only become stronger when your loved one becomes sick. Here are some ways to combat some of those uncertainties when caring for a loved one with ovarian cancer
- Educate yourself. The first step to being a supportive caregiver is by educating yourself. Your loved one will likely be overwhelmed with the diagnoses, and you can provide support by learning about ovarian cancer and talking to their doctors about treatments. Spend time researching and reading articles from trusted resources such as from the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Cancer Society. By educating yourself, you’ll be comfortable providing guidance and reassurance to your loved one.
- Have open and honest conversations. Talking about cancer with a loved one is a hard conversation to have, but it’s important to let your loved one know that they have a safe space to talk should they need to. Start the conversation by openly expressing your feelings with “I” statements. Don’t pressure your loved one to share but be receptive if they do want to talk.
- Empathizes with them. Understand that having cancer and going through treatments can be physically and emotionally draining. It’s not uncommon for someone dealing with cancer to have mood swings or extreme levels of depression or anger. Provide patience and understanding through their moods and make yourself available to them when they want to talk.
- Help them stay healthy. According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer survivors have an increased risk of contracting various other cancers including colon cancer, rectal cancer, breast cancer and acute leukemia. One of the best ways to lower the risk of getting a second cancer is to stay healthy. Encourage your loved one to find a physical activity they enjoy, such as walking. Help them prepare healthy meals full of fresh produce and whole grains and avoid processed foods. If your loved one drinks alcohol or smokes tobacco products, encourage them to quit as these two activities greatly heighten the risk of cancer.
- Don’t make it all about cancer. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a loved one is to take their mind off their diagnosis. Encourage your loved one to continue partaking in their favorite activities and participate with them. The goal is to make their daily routine as close to normal as possible to help ease their fears and anxieties. Remind them, and yourself, that it’s okay to laugh and smile, even in this gloomy situation.
- Ask for support. Caring for a sick loved one isn’t easy, and it doesn’t have to be done alone. At Visiting Angels Gadsden, we can assist in caring for a loved one so you can take time to recharge. Our trained caregivers can help with anything from meal prep to simply providing companionship while you’re away. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help care for your loved one with ovarian cancer, stop by our Gadsden office, or give us a call at 256-507-0083.