top of page

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month - February 2024

What is ovarian cancer?

February is our national ovarian cancer awareness month. Ovarian cancer is an umbrella term for a cancerous tumour starting at one or both ovaries with epithelial ovarian cancer being the most common.

So why should we raise awareness?

In Australia, 1815 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. Unfortunately, most are diagnosed at an advanced stage (> 3 stage), making it very challenging to treat. Consequently, survival rate is significantly lower, being the most lethal of any female cancer in Australia with only a 46% survival rate 5 years after diagnosis. Raising awareness, educating yourself and others is crucial to increase early detection and improve outcomes. Wear a teal ribbon this month to start a conversation and show your support for those affected by ovarian cancer!

national ovarian cancer awareness month lady in an orange top and beige pants holding a teal ribbon

How is ovarian cancer treated?

Treatment involves a multidisciplinary approach, varying depending on the stage of cancer but commonly includes a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, most women experience side effects from these treatments such as fatigue, ‘chemo brain’, increased risk of infection, weaker bones, gastrointestinal issues like poor appetite, nerve problems and physical deconditioning.

Exercise is medicine

Fortunately, exercise is an emerging adjunctive treatment for ovarian cancer with growing evidence demonstrating numerous benefits of exercise before, during and after treatment. These benefits include:

  • Decreased pain

  • Stronger bones and increased muscle mass

  • Increased energy and lower levels of fatigue

  • Improved sleep and physical function

  • Decreased levels of depression and anxiety

  • Improved digestion, appetite and constipation

  • Improved quality of life

Although exercise does not treat the cancer itself, research has shown that it can reduce risk of cancer recurrence and increase survival rate. In fact, one study demonstrated that 1.5hrs of moderate intensity exercise a week can lower risk of mortality by 33% in years 1 - 4 post diagnosis!

two women hugging each other smiling one is a cancer patient

What is the best exercise?

  • Cancer exercise guidelines recommend aiming towards 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity a week. This can be broken down into 30 minutes 5 days a week.

  • Type:  aerobic, strength and flexibility training, aiming for 2 strength sessions a week. Pelvic floor and abdominal muscle training is recommended for those who have undergone surgery amongst other post operative rehab considerations. 

  • Set smart goals and realistic expectations. Don't be too hard on yourself if you find it difficult to meet these guidelines. Start at your baseline and gradually build up your activity levels overtime, adjusting for fluctuating energy levels.

  • Choose exercise you enjoy and are motivated to continue doing!

  • Seek professional advice from specialists such as your doctor or an exercise physiologist

Can I exercise during treatment?

Absolutely! However, side effects from treatment such as fatigue may affect your ability to be physically active. Therefore, getting guidance on a program that accommodates and helps manage treatment side effects is important.

If you would like further assistance on getting started with your exercise journey click the below to book an appointment with one of our exercise physiologists !


Hayes, S., Newton, R., Spence, R., & Galvão, D. (2019). The Exercise and Sports Science Australia position statement: Exercise medicine in cancer management. Journal Of Science And Medicine In Sport, 22(11), 1175-1199.

doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2019.05.003

Jones, T., Sandler, C., Spence, R., & Hayes, S. (2020). Physical activity and exercise in women with ovarian cancer: A systematic review. Gynecologic Oncology, 158(3), 803-811. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2020.06.485

Lheureux, S., Gourley, C., Vergote, I., & Oza, A. (2019). Epithelial ovarian cancer. The Lancet, 393(10177), 1240-1253. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(18)32552-2

Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA), (2021). Exercise and Ovarian Cancer.  © OCRA, 2021.

Zhang, X., McClean, D., Ko, E., Morgan, M., & Schmitz, K. (2017). Exercise Among Women With Ovarian Cancer: A Feasibility and Pre-/Post-Test Exploratory Pilot Study. Oncology Nursing Forum, 44(3), 366-374. doi: 10.1188/17.onf.366-374



bottom of page