Surgery for ovarian cancer: What should I ask?

21 March 2019
Surgery

Fi Munro PhD, multi award winning researcher, author, blogger, speaker and mentor shares an excerpt from her new book ‘How long have I got?’ She explores the questions you can ask before your ovarian cancer surgery to be as prepared as possible.

If you are facing surgery, or supporting a loved one through this phase in their journey then I encourage you to ask questions. Yes, sometimes we hear scary stuff but we might also hear stuff that is much better than the terrifying thoughts our imagination can sometimes feed us. Above all, whatever we are told only serves to help us maintain control over our health and this is the key to healing.

The questions we will each want to ask are entirely personal. Not only does our individual diagnosis determine what is relevant to ask but so does our individual lifestyle and personality. However, I have listed the questions I asked as a reference to help you get started. My advice would be to write down your own questions and take them with you whenever you have an appointment with your medical team. This ensures that you won’t forget them in the moment. I still do this now, as I am constantly learning about my diagnosis and my recovery. My only advice would be to always reflect on your questions to see if they come from a place of fear or a place of knowledge and enquiry.  

Through experience is always better to ask questions with the intention of informing yourself and helping yourself to heal rather than trying to alleviate fears. If you are asking your medical team to be honest with you, then you need to be prepared for the answers.

I have listed some examples to get you started.

General questions

1. Where are the full details of the recommended operation?

2. Will you remove any lymph nodes? How many?

3. Will you take tissue samples?

4. Do you believe you will manage to ‘debulk’? (i.e. remove all visible cancer)

5. Can you provide an overview of the operation?

6. How long can I expect to be in hospital?

7. What pain management will be planned?

8. What is my recovery time once home?

9. Will I need additional support once home?

10. What do you expect to achieve from this surgery?

11. How will surgery affect my prognosis?

12. How will surgery affect my quality of life?

13. How long will it take me to get back to normal after my surgery?

14. When can I take up my usual activities again?

15. In my position, would you have this surgery?

16. What are the risks involved in my surgery?

17. What are the implications if I decide not to have surgery?

18. Have you completed an operation this extensive previously?

19. Who will be involved in the operation? (i.e. who does the team consist of?)

20. Would I need specialist treatment in hospital such as intensive care following the surgery?


Questions Specific to My Surgery and Diagnosis

1. Will you remove my omentum?

2. Will you remove part of my peritoneum? 

3. Will you remove part of my bowel?

4. If I have surgery to remove part of my bowel would I require an ileostomy or colostomy bag? How would this affect my quality of life?

5. Food is very important to me. Would a colostomy bag affect what I eat?

6. Would the colostomy be reversible at a later date?

7. At the time of my diagnosis I was informed I may be inoperable due to cancerous fluid in my lung, is this no longer a concern?

8. I know I require a complete surgical hysterectomy. Will I have more menopausal symptoms after my surgery?

9. Would I be able to take HRT?

10. How can I deal with menopausal symptoms if I don’t take HRT?


Fi Munro PhD is a multi-award winning researcher, author, blogger, speaker and mentor. Her new book, How Long Have I Got? Is out now and available on Amazon.