Study addresses living well after ovarian cancer

Patients in remission can experience high stress, fear of recurrence and ongoing side effects, an oncologist says. 

Once you are diagnosed as in remission from ovarian cancer, can you heave a big sigh of gratitude and move on with your life? 

Perhaps not, says a UW Medicine gynecologic oncologist.

For the past two years, Dr. Kathryn Pennington has been an investigator on the Living Well Study, which examines interventions that can help with successful recovery and life after ovarian cancer. 

Pennington will discuss the study at an online via  The Rivkin Center Teal Town Hall on April 21. At this event, ovarian cancer survivors are invited to meet virtually, via Zoom, with her and other experts to discuss the disease and relevant research. Register here.

“We know that after patients complete their treatment of ovarian cancer, they may experience symptoms that can reduce quality of life," Pennington said. “Patients experience high levels of stress, fear of recurrence and ongoing side effects related to their prior treatment or ongoing maintenance therapies. Interventions that improve quality of life are needed.”

The study's investigators represent the universities of Iowa, Washington, and Miami.  They know that social support for ovarian cancer survivors means better outcomes, Pennington added. The interventions being studied take place in a group format to increase social support, and they are web-based so anyone with internet access can participate — even survivors from rural areas, who may have less access to clinic-based support.

Ovarian cancer survivors who choose to participate in the study are randomly directed to one of two web-based programs: One focuses on mindfulness and stress reduction, and the other focuses on aspects of daily life such as nutrition, exercise and sleep.

Each online group meets weekly for 10 weeks, with a facilitator leading discussions and checking in with the participants. Participants fill out questionnaires at several  junctures: before starting the program, after completing it, and six and 12 months later. The researchers will evaluate whether the interventions improve participants' quality of life.

Patients in remission from ovarian cancer can experience ongoing weakness and fatigue, neuropathy and sleep problems. Depression, anxiety and fear of recurrence are also common.

“A lot of patients ask, 'Why don’t I feel better now that I’m in remission?'” Pennington said. “I’m hopeful that our interventions can help, and excited to see the outcomes on this study.” 

The National Institutes of Health grant that funded the study will continue for another few years, Pennington said. The researchers are led by Susan Lutgendorf, a clinical psychologist at the University of Iowa. Women interested to participate in the Living Well Study can submit a screening survey, call 800-551-5601, or email

Barbara Clements,, 253-740-5043

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