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Perspectives on Living With Ovarian Cancer: Older Women’s Views

Margaret I. Fitch
Ross E. Gray
Edmee Franssen
ONF 2001, 1433-1442 DOI:

Purpose/Objectives: To describe the perspectives of older women regarding their experiences living with ovarian cancer.

Design: Retrospective survey.

Setting: Canada.

Sample: 146 women, 61 years of age or older, diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Methods: Questionnaire distributed by oncologists and nurses in 26 cancer clinics across Canada to eligible patients during a six-week period.

Main Research Variables: Patient problems experienced, help received for problems, impact of illness, quality of life, importance of and satisfaction with information received, and helpfulness of others.

Findings: Women experienced, on average, 5.2 problems since diagnosis. The most frequently identified problems were side effects (54%), fear of recurrence (45%), bowel difficulties (43%), and difficulty sleeping (36%). Of the women who experienced problems, the proportion who felt they received adequate help ranged from 36%-74%. Approximately half (57%) of these women reported a lifestyle change. A significant difference was observed in quality of life before and after the diagnosis of ovarian cancer (p = 0.0002). When asked about the desire to talk about their difficulties with cancer, only 54% indicated that they wanted to talk. Approximately one-quarter of the women were satisfied with the information they received regarding complementary (25%) and alternative (23%) therapies, and how to speak with other women living with ovarian cancer (28%). Thirty-five percent were satisfied with the information they received about self-help groups.

Conclusion: Ovarian cancer has a significant impact on older women, and many perceive they are not receiving adequate assistance for problems they experience.

Implications for Nursing Practice: Oncology nurses should conduct comprehensive assessments of the needs of older women with ovarian cancer, refer those who require specialized counseling, and provide information desired by patients with ovarian cancer about available resources.

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