Discharge Instructions for Cancer of the Ovary

You have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This is the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the ovary. Surgery is the most common treatment for ovarian cancer. Most healthcare providers recommend the removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (called a complete hysterectomy with a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy). Lymph nodes in the pelvic and abdominal areas may also be removed during surgery. After you've healed, chemotherapy is often given to kill any cancer cells that may be left in the body. This sheet will help you remember how to care for yourself after surgery and chemotherapy. 

Home care after surgery

Here’s what to do at home following surgery for ovarian cancer.


  • Ask others to help with chores and errands while you recover.

  • To avoid straining your incisions, don’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for at least 6 weeks after surgery.

  • Don’t vacuum or do other strenuous housework until the healthcare provider says it’s OK.

  • Limit stair climbing for the first 2 weeks after surgery. Climb stairs slowly and pause after every few steps.

  • Walk as often as you feel able. While this may seem hard to do, it's important to move as much as you can as you recover from surgery. 

  • Shower as usual.

  • Don’t drive for at least 3 weeks after surgery unless it is OK with your healthcare provider. Don’t drive if you are still taking pain medicine.

  • Ask your healthcare provider when you can expect to return to work.

  • Speak to your healthcare provider if you have questions about your care.

  • Ask your surgeon for specific instructions about your care after surgery.

Incision care

  • Wash the incision site with soap and water. Pat it dry. Do not scrub or rub the incision.

  • Don’t use oils, powders, lotions, or creams on your incision.

  • Inspect the incision site every day for increased redness, drainage, swelling, or separation of the skin.

  • Be sure you have an appointment set up to have the sutures or staples removed. 

Other home care

  • Take your medicines exactly as directed. Use your pain medicine if you need it so you can be up and moving around—do not stay in bed. 

  • Continue the coughing and deep breathing exercises you learned in the hospital.

  • Don’t put anything in your vagina until your healthcare provider says it’s safe to do so. Don’t use tampons or douches. Don’t have sexual intercourse.

  • Report hot flashes, mood swings, or irritability to your healthcare provider. There may be medicines that can help you.

  • Return to your diet as tolerated. Eat a healthy well-balanced diet.

  • Avoid constipation:

    • Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

    • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day, unless directed otherwise.

    • Use a laxative or a mild stool softener if your healthcare provider says it’s OK.

Home care after chemotherapy

Here’s what to do at home following chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. 

Prevent mouth sores

Many people get mouth sores during chemotherapy. So, don’t be discouraged if you do, even if you are following all your healthcare provider’s instructions. Do the following to help prevent mouth sores or to ease discomfort:

  • Brush your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush after every meal.

  • Don’t use dental floss unless your healthcare provider or nurse says it's OK.

  • Use an oral swab or special soft toothbrush if your gums bleed during regular brushing.

  • Use any mouthwashes given to you as directed.

  • Use salt and baking soda to clean your mouth. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda into an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Swish and spit as often as you like.

  • Watch your mouth and tongue for white patches. This is a sign of fungal infection, a common side effect of chemotherapy. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about these patches. Medicine can be prescribed to help you fight the fungal infection.

  • Talk to your healthcare provider or nurse about mouth dryness, pain, or sores. There are often things that can be done to help with these problems and keep them from getting worse. 

Manage other side effects

  • Try to exercise, which keeps you strong and your heart and lungs active. Walk as much as you can without becoming dizzy or weak.

  • Don’t be surprised if your treatment causes rashes on your hands and feet. Some medicines can cause this to happen. Ask your healthcare provider or nurse what you can do to help prevent or relieve these changes and protect your skin.

  • Let your healthcare provider know if your throat is sore. You may have an infection that needs treatment.

  • Remember, many patients feel sick and lose their appetites during treatment. Eat small meals several times a day to keep your strength up:

    • Choose bland foods with little taste or smell if you are reacting strongly to food.

    • Be sure to cook all food thoroughly. This kills bacteria and helps you avoid infection.

    • Eat foods that are soft. They are less likely to cause stomach irritation.

    • Talk to your healthcare provider. There are many ways to help prevent or relieve nausea and vomiting. 

  • Keep clean. During treatment your body can’t fight germs very well:

    • Take short baths or showers with warm water. Avoid very hot or cold water.

    • Use moisturizing soap. Treatment can make your skin dry.

    • Apply moisturizing lotion several times a day to help relieve dry skin.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or chills

  • Bright red vaginal bleeding or bleeding that soaks more than 1 pad per hour

  • Smelly discharge from a surgical site (incision) or the vagina

  • Trouble urinating or burning when you urinate

  • Severe pain or bloating in your belly

  • Signs of infection around the incision (redness, drainage, warmth, pain)

  • Incision that opens up or pulls apart

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Ongoing fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat; chest pain

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Constant feeling of being cold

  • New or unusual lumps, bumps, or swelling

  • Easy bruising or bleeding 

  • Persistent nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Ask your healthcare provider who you should call and what number you should use if you have problems at home. Be sure you know how to get help anytime, including after office hours and on weekends and holidays.

Talking with your healthcare team

Getting treatment for ovarian cancer can be tough on the mind and body. Keep talking with your healthcare team about ways to make the process easier. Work together to ease the affect of symptoms on your daily life. There are often things that can be done to help you manage treatment-related problems. Talk to your healthcare provider and/or nurse to get the help you need.