A literature review of the social and psychological needs of ovarian cancer survivors

Psychooncology. 2013 Nov;22(11):2408-18. doi: 10.1002/pon.3322. Epub 2013 Jun 13.


Objective: To identify and comprehensively present the psychosocial needs of ovarian cancer (OvCa) survivors, including young survivors <45 years of age.

Methods: A literature review was conducted using keywords specific to psychosocial health and OvCa survivorship to identify peer-reviewed, original research articles published in English between January 2000 and December 2010; 28 articles were identified as relevant. Articles were abstracted and results categorized according to six psychosocial domains: quality of life (QoL), social support and relationships, self-image and sexual functioning, psychological distress and functioning, fear of death/recurrence, and personal growth and coping. Findings unique to young survivors are presented when applicable. Psychosocial measurement tools used in relevant studies are also presented.

Results: Physical complications and side effects have significant impact on OvCa survivors' psychosocial health. Access to social support services and relational support is critical, as feelings of isolation are common. Survivors report low levels of sexual activity and satisfaction, potentially causing strain on personal relationships, and survivors experience high levels of distress, depression, and anxiety. However, QoL can improve after diagnosis for some OvCa survivors, many of whom report spiritual growth and strengthened personal relationships. Younger survivors are likely to have greater distress and lower QoL compared with older survivors.

Conclusions: OvCa is the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers, greatly impacting the psychosocial health of survivors. Increased awareness of psychosocial health among OvCa survivors themselves, their social support system, and their health care providers is necessary to adequately address their unique needs.

Keywords: cancer; oncology; ovarian cancer; psychosocial needs; survivorship.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Survivors / psychology