Everyone needs people they can lean on for strength and comfort. And because having ovarian cancer can also affect you emotionally, you’ll benefit from some sort of support.

Social and emotional support can come from many places:

  • family and friends
  • cancer support groups
  • church or spirituality groups
  • online communities
  • private counselors

What works best for you will depend on your personality and your situation.

Getting Support

One of the best places to find support is with an organized group or program. Support groups or programs are places where you can connect with other women facing similar experiences and talk openly about living with cancer. These groups come in many different forms. Some groups are informal and social while others focus on learning about cancer and emotional coping strategies. Some support groups are for people with cancer only while others may also include caregivers, spouses, family, and friends.

Support groups are also flexible in terms of how they meet. Some groups get together in person, while others interact online or connect over the phone.

Before joining a support group, you may want to gather information about the group to make sure it meets your needs. Start by contacting the group leader or facilitator to find out what types of patients are in the group and what to expect during a typical meeting.

If you’re dealing with an ovarian cancer recurrence for instance, you may prefer to meet with other women experiencing a recurrence rather than women who are newly diagnosed.

Where to Find a Support Group

If you think you’re interested in a support group, ask if your cancer clinic, hospital, or oncology group offers one. Nearby cancer care centers or university hospitals may also have information about whether there’s a support group in your community.

Online support groups that meet on the Internet are another option. These may be particularly useful if you have trouble leaving the house or if you’d like to be a little bit more anonymous. Other cancer support resources are:

  • The American Cancer Society offers an online support group called the Cancer Survivors Network.
  • Cancer Care is a national nonprofit that offers free online and telephone support.
  • Cancer Hope Network offers an online social network where you can share thoughts and experiences.
  • Cancer Support Community offers a variety of online support resources for people with cancer and family members of people who have cancer.

One-on-One Counseling

Women with advanced ovarian cancer often report feelings of depression and anxiety. Some women benefit from psychological or behavioral treatments with a trained psychotherapist.

Consider seeking one-on-one counseling from a doctor or mental health professional if:

  • you experience excessive crying or feel sad and depressed most days for two or more weeks
  • you find you can’t enjoy activities you usually find pleasurable
  • you’re having thoughts about hurting yourself

In addition to counseling, your doctor may also prescribe medications if you’re experiencing severe emotional distress.

Tips for Caregivers

If a friend or loved one is dealing with a diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer, you may be wondering what to do or how to respond. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Spend time with her. Let her take the lead when talking about her diagnosis, and be a good listener.
  • Get educated. Seek out new information from sources including the American Cancer Society, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, and the National Cancer Institute.
  • Try to involve her in shared activities. Play cards or watch a movie. Be understanding if she tires quickly, and you can’t stay as long as you’d like.
  • Give her permission to express her feelings openly with you. Some people keep their feelings inside because they fear they will worry or burden friends and family.
  • Being a cancer caregiver isn’t easy. Remember to lean on your own social network for emotional support.

Just because you were the one diagnosed with ovarian cancer doesn’t mean that you have to deal with your diagnosis alone. Getting support will allow you to talk about what you’re going through and develop skills for coping with anxiety or other emotional issues that may arise.

Read Video Transcript »

You may have heard of genes that increase a woman’s chance of getting cancer.

Despite being named the BReast CAncer susceptibility gene — or BRCA — these genes have been linked to an increased risk of many cancers, including ovarian cancer.

Here are five more things you may not know about BRCA and ovarian cancer.

1. Everyone has BRCA genes.

These genes help repair cell damage and maintain normal cell growth.

It’s only when mutated versions of these genes replicate that they may become cancerous. Unfortunately, these malfunctioning genes can be passed down genetically.

2. Different BRCA mutations carry greater ovarian cancer risks.

Besides breast cancer, BRCA abnormalities can also raise a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer.

In women with inherited BRCA1 abnormalities, that risk is between 35 and 70 percent.

For BRCA2 gene mutations, that risk is between 10 and 30 percent by late age.

3. Some groups are at a higher risk of BRCA mutation.

While BRCA mutations are found in people all around the world, people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have about a 1 in 40 chance of having the mutation.

These mutations are also more common in people from the Netherlands, Iceland, and Norway.

4. Not everyone needs a BRCA test.

New tests of a blood sample can test your DNA for mutated BRCA cells. Since these are rare, not every woman needs to be tested.

Talk with your doctor about your potential risk factors, including a family history of breast, ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancers, and see if a BRCA test is necessary.

5. The pill could help lower your risks.

Studies on women with BRCA mutations and their risk of ovarian cancer are mixed, but an analysis done in 1992 found oral contraceptive use reduced risk by 50 percent.

Oral contraceptive use has been shown to lower ovarian cancer risks the longer women take the pill. Studies show the risk is reduced by up to 12 percent after a year on the pill. After five years, a woman’s risk is cut in half.

There you have it: Five things you may not have known about BRCA and ovarian cancer.

Knowing your BRCA mutation risk can help you and your doctor make better decisions about your health.