Ovarian cancer can affect women of any age, but because around 80% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed in women over 50, a lot of the information and support services focus on this age group. If you are a younger woman and have not completed your family or gone through menopause, you are likely to have many specific and different concerns when you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer — like dealing with early menopause, whether you will be able to have children after treatment, who you will talk to and look after your children, and how cancer will affect your relationships, work and finances.
As well as experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer for women of any age, you may feel an extra sense of isolation and frustration because many resources and support services for women with ovarian cancer aren’t focused on the needs of younger women. It is important to know that there are many support services that can help — they are just a bit harder to find! That’s why we have made lots of phone calls and met with service providers to give you direct contact numbers, websites and links to publications that have the sensitive and practical information and support you need. If you are a younger woman dealing with ovarian cancer, then this section of the Ovarian Cancer Australia website is here for you. Please get in touch with us if you find any other helpful information or support services that we can add to these pages to keep them relevant and up-to-date.
In this section, you will find:
Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer is very distressing and there will be times when you need to talk to someone who simply understands. Each of these organisations has staff who are ready to listen and offer you the support you need.
Ovarian Cancer Australia 1300 660 334 www.ovariancancer.net.au
Ovarian Cancer Australia staff are available Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm to provide supportive information and referrals for women with ovarian cancer and for their family and friends. Our Ovarian Cancer Australia Connect online forum gives you access to a community of compassionate and supportive women who have been affected by ovarian cancer. The forum includes a group for younger women; click here to explore further.
Cancer Council Help Line
13 11 20
Specially trained staff can answer your questions about cancer, offer emotional and practical support, and refer you to specialised counselling services.
Lifeline 24-hour Telephone Crisis Support
13 11 14
You can call Lifeline any time of the day and night when you need immediate emotional support.
Younger women with ovarian cancer often tell us that they want to connect with other younger women who are living with cancer and who share many of the same concerns. Depending on your specific needs and where you live, there are several organisations that can offer you the practical and emotional support that is geared toward the needs of younger people with cancer.
The Warwick Foundation
1300 705 280
The Warwick Foundation provides a wide range of support options for young adults aged 18–40 during their cancer treatment. Key support programs for young adults (including women with ovarian cancer) include online peer support through the ‘Mates in My Shoes Program’, face-to-face member catch-ups (in Victoria), and Wellness Escapes with a loved one. You can also have a free ‘My Mate’ kit sent to you that provides information and links to resources tailored to the needs of young adults — including infertility, finances and emotional support.
1800 733 548
Redkite provides practical, financial and emotional support for people aged 0–24 with a cancer diagnosis. Financial assistance can be provided, including grocery vouchers to help with food costs, and grants to help with living costs and for educational and career assistance. Emotional support and counselling is available via phone and email with trained social workers from Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. However, arrangements for social support outside these hours can be made if necessary.
1800 835 932
An online service developed by CanTeen for young people aged 12–24 whose lives have been affected by cancer, which includes young people with cancer and young people whose parent has cancer. This means that the site can be helpful both for very young women with ovarian cancer as well as children of women with ovarian cancer.
The site helps young people affected by cancer to connect with other young people with similar experiences, providing peer support and a space where they can share their stories and know that they are not alone.
It also has information on ovarian germ cell tumours — a type of tumour that is more likely to affect young women.
1300 781 500
BreaCan is an information and support service for women affected by gynaecological and breast cancers. They have a resource centre and drop-in centre and hold information sessions in Victoria, which include topics relevant to young women with ovarian cancer. BreaCan provides a peer support program for women diagnosed with gynaecological cancers. The program connects you with another woman who has lived with gynaecological cancer and has received training to provide support to others.
GAIN is a gynaecological support organisation that provides information and awareness for women with a range of gynaecological conditions, including ovarian cancer. GAIN holds seminars covering a wide range of topics, some of which are relevant for younger women. All seminars are videorecorded and posted on the GAIN website for people who can’t attend. If you have questions for GAIN or would like to contact them, send them an email via their ‘contact us’ page on the website.
The Wesley Hospital Kim Walters Choices Program
1800 227 271
The Choices Program (Choices) has a monthly support group specifically for younger women with any type of cancer. Women in their early 20s to 40s participate in this group, which may have an activity, social or information-based focus. Other programs offered include yoga, Pilates, reiki, mediation and relaxation. Choices also offers peer support and counselling services. Women are welcome to drop in or call Monday to Thursday, 8.30 am – 4.30 pm and on Friday 8.30 am – 2.30 pm. You don’t need to be attending the Wesley Hospital to join the Choices Program — it’s a free community service open to all women.
07 3103 0649
Mummy’s Wish provides practical assistance for mums who have cancer and have children aged under 12 years. Assistance can include babysitting, cooking, cleaning, and anything else that helps to keep mums and their families going day-to-day. Mummy’s Wish Support Coordinators meet mums face-to-face to discuss their needs. You can make contact with Mummy’s Wish by phone or email, but it’s probably best to send an email via the website because staff are often out of the office visiting mums.
If you were still having menstrual periods before you were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and you have both your ovaries and uterus removed during surgery, you will experience what is called immediate or surgical menopause. If you still have one ovary after surgery, then chemotherapy or radiotherapy may also result in menopause.
The combination of a cancer diagnosis and the sudden physical and emotional effects of early menopause can be especially difficult to deal with. For many women, immediate menopause results in feelings of grief and loss and an increased risk of anxiety, depression and mood changes. It is ideal if you can talk to a member of your healthcare team before your surgery and find out what information and support is available for you. Many younger women also have questions about preserving their fertility, which we have covered here.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to visit a specialist menopause clinic. Many of these clinics have expertise in managing menopause that is a result of cancer treatment and can provide you with access to a range of specialists that can help. Some clinics include a sexual counselling service. You will usually need a referral from your GP or specialist to attend a menopause clinic.
If you cannot access one of these clinics, there are doctors who specialise in menopause and also have an understanding of cancer and its treatment. A doctor who understands both menopause and cancer can provide you with a balanced view of HRT and whether it is suitable for your individual situation.
Menopause Symptoms after Cancer (MSAC) Clinic, Royal Women’s Hospital
03 8345 2191
MSAC (Menopause Symptoms After Cancer Clinic)
The MSAC clinic is staffed by a multidisciplinary team that includes gynaecologists, endocrinologists, a psychiatrist, psychologist, sexual counsellors and specialist nurses. The clinic operates on Mondays 1.30 – 4 pm. GP or specialist referral is required. Sexual counselling is offered within the clinic. Please call for more information.
Mercy Health Menopause Clinic
03 8458 4880
Treatment for menopause symptoms is provided through the general gynaecology outpatients unit. Ring outpatients to arrange a consultation with a doctor who specialises in menopause. The clinic is open Monday to Thursday, 9 am – 5 pm. GP or specialist referral is required.
Jean Hailes Medical Centre for women
The Jean Hailes Medical Centre has doctors who specialise in early menopause management and treatment. The clinic is open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. A referral is required to see a specialist doctor or you can get a referral from one of the GPs in the clinic. Jean Hailes also has a website dedicated to early menopause where you will find information about early menopause symptoms, treatment and support.
The Epworth Freemasons Women’s Health Clinic
03 9418 8162
The Epworth Freemasons Women’s Health Clinic has female doctors that specialise in women’s health issues, including early menopause management and treatment. A number of other services are available onsite including breast screening and sexual counselling. The clinic is open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. No referral is required.
Menopause Clinic (Women’s and Children’s Ambulatory Health Care Health)
02 9463 2349
Obstetricians and gynaecologists with a special interest in menopause provide consultations for women with surgically–induced and natural menopause. The clinic is open on Monday and Wednesday mornings 9 am – 12 noon, and on Friday afternoons 12 noon – 4 pm. GP or specialist referral is required.
Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT
02 6247 3077
A menopause clinic operates within the Sexual Health and Family Planning Centre and has female doctors who specialise in menopause support and treatment. Menopause doctors are usually available on Mondays and sometimes on Thursdays. No referral is required.
The Wesley Hospital Kim Walters Choices Program
07 3232 7064 /1800 227 271
Wesley Hospital Kim Walters Choices Program
The Choices Program (Choices) provides a wide range of support programs for women with gynaecological and breast cancers, including support and information about symptom management and sexuality for women experiencing early menopause due to surgery and cancer treatment. Choices also assists women with referrals for further treatment and with support offered outside their program. No referral is required: simply call to make an appointment. You can call or visit the drop–in centre Monday to Thursday, 8.30 am – 4.30 pm and Friday 8.30 am – 2.30 pm.
Buderim Menopause Clinic
The Buderim Menopause Clinic offers a range of services for women experiencing menopause symptoms. The clinic is open Monday to Thursday 9 am – 5 pm, and Friday 9 am – 4.30 pm. No referral is required. Sexual counselling is also offered.
Womens Health Centre, Royal Adelaide Hospital
08 8222 5587
Doctors with a special interest in menopause provide consultations for women experiencing surgically–induced menopause and natural menopause. The clinic is open Tuesdays 9 am – 5 pm. GP or specialist referral is required.
Menopause Symptoms After Cancer (MSAC) Clinic, King Edward Memorial Hospital
08 9340 1357 or 08 9340 2222, pager number 3358
The MSAC Clinic provides evidence–based advice and treatment for women with menopausal symptoms and a history of cancer. The clinic has a multidisciplinary care team including endocrinologists, oncologists, GPs, psychologists, physiotherapists and nurses. The clinic is open on Wednesdays 9 am – 4 pm. You can also call the clinic on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday from 9 am – 4 pm for referrals, support and information about menopausal symptoms. Video conferencing is also available for women living in regional and rural areas. GP or specialist referral is required. Sexual counselling can be arranged within the clinic with a clinical sexologist on Tuesdays.
Family Planning Tasmania
03 6273 9117
Family Planning Tasmania have GP clinics with doctors who specialise in women’s health issues and are able to provide clinical and psychological support during menopause. There are clinics are in Burnie, Launceston and Glenorchy which are open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. Outreach clinics are also run occasionally in Smithton, Cygnet, Huonville, Geeveston and Derwent Valley clinic. Call to find out when these clinics are available. No referral is required. Sexual counselling is also available.
Sexual Health Service
1800 675 859
Sexual health counselling is available in person or over the phone. Call to find out about counselling options available in your area.
There aren’t any specialist menopause clinics in the NT. Family Planning (see below) can offer support and management, but don’t have a focus on menopause after cancer treatment. Your GP or oncologist should be able to help or refer you to someone with more specialised skills.
Family Planning Welfare Association Northern Territory (FPWNT)
08 8948 0144
FPWNT have doctors who are specialised in women’s sexual and reproductive issues, including menopause. These doctors can provide support and management for women experiencing early menopause symptoms. Clinic hours are Monday to Friday, 9 am – 4.30 pm. No referral required. Bulk billing available. FPWNT can make referrals for sexual counselling.
Menopause support information
Australasian Menopause Society (AMS)
03 9428 8738
The AMS website has a wealth of information on menopause — including the booklet Menopause: presenting a positive outlook which has answers to some commonly asked questions about menopause and HRT.
The information sheets cover many topics including Early Menopause due to Chemotherapy and Non Hormonal Treatments for Menopausal Symptoms.
You can also search for doctors who specialise in menopause.
Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
1800 532 642
Jean Hailes for Women’s Health is a national not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of women. You can access separate websites on early menopause, managing menopause and bone health from the main web address. The organisation also has a Medical Centre for Women, based in Melbourne. See Victorian Menopause clinics for more information.
Website includes information about early menopause resulting from treatment for ovarian cancer with some brief information on HRT and other treatments to help manage menopause symptoms.
Surgery and chemotherapy for ovarian cancer can affect your fertility. Having children in the future may be something you have been talking about or it may be something you haven’t had a chance to think about yet. Even if having children is the furthest thought from your mind right now, if you would like the option of having children in the future, it’s very important to talk to your gynaecological oncologist before treatment begins. If you have germ cell ovarian cancer (which mainly affects younger women), early epithelial ovarian cancer or a borderline tumour, you may be able to have fertility-sparing surgery. If you need to have chemotherapy after fertility-sparing surgery, your doctor may recommend a treatment that rests your remaining ovary and therefore tries to protect it from the effects of chemo. There have been many advances in fertility treatments and depending on your type and stage of ovarian cancer, you may be able to have ovarian tissue or eggs frozen before your treatment begins. To find out more, ask a member of your healthcare team to refer you to a local fertility preservation service, or you can search for a local service through AccessA or IVF Australia below.
Fertility clinics & counselling
1800 888 896
AccessA is an independent, non-profit organisation that provides a wide range of information and support on infertility. The site includes a listing of IVF services and infertility counsellors in each state and territory.
IVF Australia has fertility clinics in New South Wales. Their website includes plenty of information about fertility services, and a listing of local clinics. IVF Australia holds free information sessions in Sydney and Newcastle.
Melbourne IVF has fertility clinics in Melbourne. Their website includes plenty of information about fertility services and fertility preservation.
Queensland Fertility Group
Queensland Fertility Group has fertility clinics throughout Queensland from the Gold Coast to Cairns. Their website includes information about fertility treatments and fertility preservation.
CanTeen has produced a book, Maybe Later Baby, which is a really helpful guide to fertility for young people with cancer. You can download the PDF here or you can order a free copy from the same web page. The Royal Women’s Hospital Melbourne has produced a helpful booklet Can I still have children? Fertility options for young women having chemotherapy and radiotherapy which you can download from Melbourne IVF.
Relationships & sexuality
Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer will affect all the relationships in your life and especially your intimate relationships. If you are married or in a relationship, both you and your partner will be feeling a deep level of distress and trying to be strong for each other. It’s so important to communicate clearly with each other and to be honest about your feelings. But this isn’t necessarily easy and many couples find it helpful to see a counsellor, social worker or psychologist together.
Ovarian cancer and its treatment can profoundly affect the way you feel about yourself and your body, your sexual desire and your sexual relationship with others, whether or not you have a partner. Understanding these changes in your body, communicating openly about them and finding creative new ways to be intimate can help you to feel more confident and maintain a healthy relationship.
These organisations can provide specialised counselling and information to help:
Menopause clinics that offer sexual counselling
Several of the specialised menopause clinics offer sexual counselling. These clinics are often a good place to call first because the counsellors understand the needs of women who are living with cancer and early menopause.
Helpline 13 11 20
The Cancer Council Helpline in each state and territory can connect you with counsellors and psychologists who specialise in relationships, sexuality and cancer and can offer support for carers and partners as well. There are also some helpful publications produced by the state cancer councils:
Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer download the PDF or order a copy from Cancer Council NSW.
Sexuality and Cancer download the PDF or order a copy from Cancer Council Victoria.
Life Now cancer and sexuality CD available to download from Cancer Council Western Australia.
Sexual Health Australia (SHA)
0404 267 559
email: [email protected]
Sexual Health Australia provides relationship counselling and sex therapy for individuals and couples. Face to face counselling is offered in Sydney and phone counselling is offered nationally by counsellors who have experience in cancer and sexuality. Extras cover with a private health fund will refund part of the cost.
The brochure, Intimacy and sexuality for women with gynaecological cancer — starting a conversation, which suggests questions that you and your partner might want to ask your healthcare professional about sexuality and intimacy, helping to empower you and to feel less awkward or embarrassed.
Look Good … Feel Better
1800 650 960
This free community service program helps women with self-confidence during and after cancer treatment. The 2-hour workshops offer useful tips on dealing with changes in your hair and skin, including suitable skincare, makeup and how to use wigs, turbans and scarves. This can help to rebuild your body image, which is an important part of your emotional and sexual healing.
When you’re a mum, it’s very natural to be especially concerned about how to tell your children that you have cancer, and you will probably be unsure how much detail to share with your children as you go through treatment. It is best if you can talk to your children as soon as possible so they can understand what is happening to you and can talk openly about their fears.
How much you tell your children will depend a lot on their age. There are many sensitively–written booklets that can help to make these conversations much easier. A social worker at your treatment centre or a counsellor can also help to start a conversation with your children and to work through difficult emotions, which will change throughout your cancer journey. Some children, particularly as they are heading towards the teenage years, can really benefit from an online forum, a face-to-face support group or telephone counselling where they can connect with other people their age who have a parent with cancer or talk to understanding counsellors who have experience with young people and cancer. These support services can help young people to feel less alone, to understand that their strong emotions are absolutely normal and to learn valuable coping skills.
Cancer Council NSW has a sensitively-written booklet, Talking to Kids about Cancer which describes how to tell children about your cancer experience, including helpful ideas for talking to children of different ages.
1800 226 833
CanTeen counselling service is a free service for young people aged 12–24 who have a parent with cancer. Face-to-face counselling is available in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Melbourne, and online or telephone counselling is available everywhere in Australia.
Now What has been developed by CanTeen and is an online service for young people aged 12–24 whose lives have been affected by cancer, including young people with a parent who has cancer. The site helps young people to connect with other young people with similar experiences, providing peer support and a space where they can share their stories and know that they are not alone.
This website is produced by Cancer Australia and is aimed at teenagers whose mother has breast cancer, but it also provides lots of useful information for teenagers whose mother has ovarian cancer.
If you have young children, you may also be concerned about how you will care for them during and after your treatment. You may need access to extra child care and help with paying child care fees. You may also be eligible for in-home child care, where your children can be cared for in your own home. This can be especially helpful when you are having chemo, as it helps to limit infections that children commonly pickup in community child care and bring home with them.
The Australian Government Child Care Access Hotline
1800 670 305
Monday to Friday, 8 am – 9 pm
Both the hotline and mychild website can provide you with more information about finding child care services to meet your needs and about assistance in paying child care fees.
Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer at a younger age may have a significant impact on your career and your financial situation.
If you were working before you were diagnosed, you will need to take time off for surgery and recovery from surgery. Deciding when to return to work will depend on your health, financial situation and personal priorities. As well as providing you with income, work can be very satisfying and give you the opportunity to mix with other people. It can also be one way to make life feel more normal again.
Whilst you are not obligated to tell your employer that you have ovarian cancer, most women agree that it makes working life easier if you can be open with your employer from the beginning. Commonwealth and state anti-discrimination laws require employers to take reasonable steps to accommodate the effects of your cancer. These laws prevent employers from discriminating against you because you have cancer.
Cancer Council NSW has a helpful booklet Cancer, Work and You which you can download as a PDF or order a free copy. It includes plenty of practical tips for talking to your employer, negotiating time off work and returning to work gradually in a way that suits you and your employer.
Fair Work Australia
13 13 94
The Fair Work Ombudsman can tell you more about your rights at work.
Having cancer often creates many extra expenses, which can cause added stress for you and your family. There are many different types of financial assistance available to help. There is also assistance available for family members if they are unable to work while caring for you. Some women feel like they should be able to manage without extra help from government services, but these services have money set aside to help when illness causes financial strain, so it makes good sense to access the services and support that you are entitled to. Taking some of the financial stress away can help you to focus on your healing and on spending time with your family.
You will find more detailed information about each the services below and additional services on pages 164–167 of our Resilience Kit.
Medicare can help with out–of–pocket medical expenses through the Medicare Safety Net and the PBS Safety Net.
The Medicare Safety Net is designed to help people who have a lot of medical expenses. Once you have spent a certain amount on non-hospital medical costs in a calendar year, you may then be eligible to receive a higher rebate from Medicare for future medical costs in that year. Call Medicare or go online to learn more.
The PBS Safety Net works in a similar way as the Medicare Safety Net and helps towards the cost of prescription medicines when you have spent over a certain amount in one calendar year. Call Medicare, go online, or ask your pharmacist for more information.
Australian Tax Office (ATO)
13 28 61
If your net medical expenses (after Medicare and any private health refunds) are over the ATO’s threshold for the financial year, you can claim an offset of 20% in your tax return. There is a calculator you can use to estimate your tax offset on the ATO’s website.
13 27 17
Centrelink can tell you about allowances and payments that you or your carers may be entitled to due to illness and reduced income. If you are unclear about an allowance that your carer might be eligible for or have any problems completing the application, your local Carers Association can help on 1800 242 636.
Accessing superannuation funds
You may be able to make an application to have superannuation funds released early based on specified compassionate grounds. See ‘Early Release of Superannuation’ on the Human Services website to see if you may be eligible, or talk to your superannuation fund manager.
MoneySmart website is run by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to help ordinary Australians make smart choices about their personal finances — including useful tips, plans and calculators to help at different lifestages and when your finances are under stress.
Support groups provide an opportunity for women with ovarian cancer to discuss common issues, share stories, gain more information, and receive emotional support to help cope with their diagnosis and treatment.
Family & Friends Support
Family and friends are an important part of every woman’s journey with ovarian cancer. Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer is a difficult time for women and for her family and friends.