Ovarian Cancer and Mental Health: Strategies for Well-being

Ovarian Cancer and Mental Health: Strategies for Well-being

cancer stress therapist

Facing ovarian cancer is undoubtedly a journey that takes a toll on your body, but it’s crucial to recognize that it also profoundly impacts your mental health. In fact, studies reveal that the risk of mental illness more than triples for women grappling with ovarian cancer. Here’s a closer look at the intricate relationship between ovarian cancer and mental health, exploring its implications, factors influencing the risk, and ways to seek support. 

The Intersection of Ovarian Cancer and Mental Health 

The landscape of mental health can vary throughout your ovarian cancer journey, influenced by factors such as the stage of cancer, age, and individual personality traits. Importantly, your mental well-being intertwines with the effectiveness of cancer treatment and even your chances of survival. 

Shedding Light on Cancer and Mental Health Challenges 

Numerous studies have delved into the rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions among women with ovarian cancer, offering valuable insights into this complex relationship. For instance: 

  • A study involving 143 women with ovarian cancer revealed that 1 in 5 experienced moderate to severe distress, with over half exhibiting high-stress responses to their cancer and its treatment. Surprisingly, 60% weren’t receiving any mental health services. 
  • Another comprehensive review of 24 studies, encompassing over 3,600 women with ovarian cancer, found significantly higher rates of depression and anxiety compared to healthy counterparts. The prevalence of depression ranged from 25% before treatment to 13% after treatment, while anxiety rates fluctuated between 19% and 27% during different stages of the cancer journey. 
  • A recent study in 2021 examining mental health disorders in over 1,600 ovarian cancer survivors emphasized a substantially elevated risk for mental illnesses. In the initial two years post-diagnosis, women faced a threefold increase in depression and a 3.5 times increase in anxiety disorders. The risk remained significantly elevated in the subsequent 2-5 years. 

How Mental Health Influences Ovarian Cancer Outcomes 

While research on this aspect is still evolving, a notable study suggests that your mental health can impact your ovarian cancer prognosis in ways that aren’t entirely understood. The study found that women with ovarian cancer who also had a mental health condition were almost twice as likely to succumb to the disease compared to those without depression or anxiety. This underscores the importance of addressing mental health concerns to enhance the odds of surviving ovarian cancer potentially. 

Factors Influencing Mental Health Risks in Ovarian Cancer 

Understanding the nuanced factors that contribute to mental health challenges is crucial. You may be more susceptible to psychological distress, depression, or anxiety when: 

  • Diagnosed at a younger age 
  • Facing advanced stages of ovarian cancer
  • Dealing with cancer that has spread to distant parts of your body 
  • Confronting a faster-growing or higher-grade ovarian cancer 
  • Experiencing a recurrence after treatment 
  • Newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer 

Other contributing factors include your mental health before the ovarian cancer diagnosis, your personality, and the level of support and care you receive for your mental health. 

Recognizing Signs of Mental Health Conditions 

Amid the natural emotional fluctuations that accompany a cancer diagnosis, it’s crucial to be aware of signs indicating a more severe and ongoing mental health issue. These signs may include: 


  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness 
  • Loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities
  • Changes in weight or appetite 
  • Sleep disturbances, either excessive sleeping or insomnia 
  • Constant fatigue or lack of energy 
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness 
  • Thoughts of suicide or mood swings 


  • Persistent worry or anxiety beyond one’s control 
  • Difficulty solving problems or focusing 
  • Feelings of tension, tightness, or restlessness 
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Restlessness or an inability to relax 
  • Irritability or short temper 
  • Physical symptoms like a dry mouth 


  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness, fear, anger, or helplessness 
  • Loss of faith or purpose 
  • Withdrawal from friends and family 
  • Experiencing depression, anxiety, or panic 

Seeking Help for Your Mental Health 

If you or a loved one identifies with these feelings, reaching out for help is crucial. Talk to your healthcare team, ensuring that your mental health is addressed alongside your cancer treatment. Consider these steps for support: 

  • Communicate openly with loved ones about your feelings and needs, fostering a supportive environment. 
  • Address concerns related to the cost of ovarian cancer treatment and seek assistance when needed. 
  • Explore participation in a support group to connect with others facing similar challenges. 
  • Request a referral to your healthcare provider for mental health and social support services. 
  • Stay as active and engaged as possible, as maintaining a sense of purpose can positively impact your mental health. 

Seeking help doesn’t alter the course of ovarian cancer, but it can significantly enhance your emotional well-being and coping mechanisms. In a study of women with ovarian cancer, those who sought more emotional and social support experienced a higher quality of life and lower levels of depression.  

Help is available, and while it may not change your ovarian cancer diagnosis, it can certainly ease the emotional burden along the way. 

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