SurvivorNet Feature: Focusing On Your Emotional Health, with Dr. Dana Chase

What Still Brings You Joy? Your Emotional Health is So Important to Living with Ovarian Cancer 

SurvivorNet Feature By Dr. Dana Chase | April 15, 2021

During your cancer care, feeling happy can actually help you live longer. As such, it’s important to take just as much care of your emotional health as your physical health when living with ovarian cancer. In fact, studies have shown that patients with better emotional health have a better quality of life when going through treatment, and these women actually live longer than those with worse emotional well-being. To better understand the role of emotional health and social support after a cancer diagnosis, we spoke to Dr. Dana Chase, gynecologic oncologist at Arizona Oncology.

Emotional Health and Survival

A number of studies over the years have shown that women with ovarian cancer who have better mental and emotional health live longer than those who don’t. According to Chase, “We know…better quality of life is associated with better survival, better outcomes,” says Chase. Thus, she and other oncologists in the field agree that minding close attention to the quality of life and happiness of patients is very important. “Definitely working on your emotional health, your physical well-being, your social environment…working on those things and making them better are important and can impact your survival,” she says.


So how do you take care of your emotional health? Well, Chase says it’s as simple as doing the things you love. “You should try to do more of those activities.” She recommends that patients take some time out of each day to do something that brings them joy. Chase even tells her patients to write down the ten things they like doing and carve out parts of their day so that 50 percent of their time is spent doing things they genuinely enjoy. “Sometimes I will talk to a patient about making [a] list of the top ten things that bring them joy. And trying to do those ten things…to make at least 50 percent of their experiences positive throughout the day.”

Social Support Networks

One very important aspect of emotional health and quality of life is adequate and fulfilling social support. A loving community can be an emotional buttress for you during tough times, and can be there for you throughout the course of your treatment. Dr. Chase told us about a few possible support networks that women can use while going through ovarian cancer treatment, such as:

  • Friends and Family – While this may be the immediate source of community for most women, it isn’t there for every women. Dr. Chase is quick to recognize that not every woman can lean on friends and family for social support. “Some women just do not have access to that,” she cautions.

For women who don’t have traditional social support such as friends and family, Chase and other oncologists in the field have identified resources that can provide a sense of community and comfort to these women. “So, finding out from a woman [about] her social network is important, because if she doesn’t have a social network, we have to hook her up with a patient advocate, or National Ovarian Cancer Coalition is a support network for women with ovarian cancer.”

  • Patient Advocate – Patient advocates are your partners in the treatment process and help direct you to all the resources in the hospital, as well as providing comforting support throughout the experience.
  • National Support Networks – such as the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, which provides local chapters of women with ovarian cancer that can provide support for one another, as well as a large volunteer community.

No matter what your situation, there is a social support network out there for you, says Chase. “Certainly women have to know that there’s a social network out there for them if they don’t have it easily accessible,” she says. All in all, taking care of your emotional health–whether that’s your mental well-being or social network–will definitely help you live happier, and may even help you live longer.

Stronger emotional health is associated with better survival (video) 

Dr. Dana Chase is a gynecologic oncologist at Arizona Oncology. Read More