The views of ovarian cancer survivors on its cause, prevention, and recurrence

Medscape Womens Health. 2001 Oct;6(5):5.


Methods: Women who had survived ovarian cancer without further treatment, active disease, or recurrence for at least 2 years were surveyed by mail.

Results: Two hundred (67.8%) ovarian cancer survivors, who had been recurrence free for a mean of 7.2 +/- 4.9 years, responded. The cause of ovarian cancer was attributed to stress (63.5%), diet (39.0%), genes (36.5%), environment (32.5%), hormones (30.0%), sex life (11.0%), and smoking (9.5%). They attributed their lack of cancer recurrence to positive attitude (82.5%), close medical follow-up (82.0%), healthy lifestyle (69.0%), prayer (68.0%), stress reduction (66.5%), diet (63.0%), and exercise (58.5%). Overall, 45% of women thought their recurrence risk was below average, 28.5% average, 23% above average, and 3.5% reported that they did not know their particular risk. Although 35.5% of women reported that they hardly ever thought of cancer recurrence, 28% thought of it at least monthly, 24.5% at least weekly, and 12% at least daily. Almost half (43.5%) of the women had bad dreams related to their cancer experience, and 25% of these women reported the dreams had a negative effect on their sense of well-being. Over half (62.5%) reported high to extreme anxiety at the time of cancer check-ups, but 47% were not afraid of what their futures held for them. However, 12% were very afraid of dying of ovarian cancer, and 5% were "constantly afraid of dying." Most women reported healthy behaviors with respect to not smoking (95.5%), balanced diet (92.0%), and regular exercise (65.0%). Of note was that 82% took vitamins or other supplements.

Conclusion: Healthcare providers should be aware that the personal beliefs held by ovarian cancer patients and survivors about cancer cause and recurrence prevention may be at variance with scientific evidence. This may assist in framing the ongoing management of patients in personally meaningful ways, which may increase adherence to a healthy lifestyle, engender a sense of control, and improve quality of life.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / etiology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / psychology
  • Remission Induction
  • Risk Factors
  • Secondary Prevention*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology