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Women living with ovarian cancer described changes in day to day living, major challenges, and sources of support

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QUESTION: What are the perceptions of women living with ovarian cancer?


Qualitative study.


Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


18 women (age range 35–73 y) with ovarian cancer were identified through 2 major cancer centres and a local ovarian cancer support group.


Data were collected through 1 hour semistructured telephone interviews. Questions related to the effects of ovarian cancer on day to day living, major challenges, and sources of support. Interview data were transcribed verbatim and reviewed by the 3 authors, who identified themes arising from an inductively derived coding scheme.

Main findings

(1) Effect of cancer on day to day living. Cancer profoundly altered women’s daily lives, resulting in the loss of usual activities, inability to work, and financial concerns arising because of uncertainty about future health needs and employment. Women struggled to integrate changes and experienced emotional distress as they realised that life was changed forever. The diagnosis of ovarian cancer had an impact on the family. Women described changing roles and fears for husbands. The marital relationship became strained as husbands adopted new roles and responsibilities to support their wives and maintain the household. Unspoken fears affected communication, and women worried about the effects of added stress on their husbands’ health. Altered sexuality occurred because of treatment related …

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  • Source of funding: Health Canada.

  • For correspondence: Dr M I Fitch, Psychosocial and Behavioral Research Unit, Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. marg.fitch{at}