While changes in your diet, exercise routine, or sleeping pattern won’t treat your advanced ovarian cancer, they can help you manage your symptoms and leave you feeling rejuvenated.

Nutrition and Diet

Eating right can be hard during cancer treatment, especially if you’re receiving chemotherapy. You may feel nauseous or your sense of taste may change. You may also experience unexpected weight loss or gain.

A dietician can help you work through some of the dietary side effects of treatment and recommend a healthy eating plan.

Some studies suggest that eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and other plant-based foods may help increase survival time in women with advanced ovarian cancer. Although this research isn’t conclusive, eating a healthy diet is one of the easiest ways to start feeling better. Some dietary tips for advanced ovarian cancer include:

  • Try eating small portions every 2 to 3 hours.
  • Eat at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables and at least 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit each day. 
  • Start juicing fruits and vegetables if you’re having trouble chewing or swallowing.
  • Avoid greasy, high-fat foods.


Ovarian cancer patients often suffer from severe fatigue during treatment. Fatigue is often described as a “bone-weary” exhaustion that won’t go away with sleep.

Fatigue can make it difficult for women with advanced ovarian cancer to want to exercise. But exercise can actually help lessen feelings of fatigue associated with cancer treatment.

Some studies have found that women with higher levels of physical activity after diagnosis lived longer. Studies have also shown that regular exercise can help people treated for cancer feel better physically and emotionally.

If you haven’t been physically active, talk to your doctor about what level of exercise is right for you. You may want to start with just a couple minutes of walking each day.

Some tips for exercising with advanced ovarian cancer include:

  • You should workout with a buddy for an extra boost of support.
  • When walking, use Nordic walking poles for extra support and stability.
  • Make sure to stop during your workout if you need a rest.

Rest and Sleeping

Sleep disturbances (like insomnia), depression, and anxiety are commonly reported in women with advanced ovarian cancer. These three symptoms are all related as emotional distress, as well as pain, and certain medications, can lead to trouble falling asleep and staying asleep at night.

Relaxation can help relieve pain, reduce anxiety, and help you fall asleep. There are many relaxation methods and techniques. Relaxation exercises can be done sitting up or lying down. Just make sure that you’re comfortable in the position you choose.

Here are some relaxation exercises to try:

  • Breathe in deeply while tensing a group of muscles. Let the rest of your body go limp. For example, make a fist and stiffen your arms or legs. Hold the position for several seconds. Exhale and release the muscles and move on to a new muscle group.
  • Close your eyes and focus on making slow, even breaths. To keep a steady, even rhythm, say silently to yourself, “In, one, two. Out, one, two.”
  • Listen to calm, quiet music.
  • Close your eyes and think of a peaceful, quiet scene.

In addition to these relaxation techniques, a few small studies have found that practicing restorative yoga may be beneficial for women with advanced ovarian cancer. In one study, women with ovarian or breast cancer reported a better quality of life and feeling less anxious and depressed after practicing restorative yoga for two months than women who didn’t.

If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, talk to your doctor. They can make sure you don’t have an underlying medical condition such as sleep apnea.

Making simple changes to your current lifestyle can make it easier for you to adjust to your advanced ovarian cancer diagnosis.

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.