Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer often goes undetected due to its subtle symptoms but if diagnosed and treated early, treatment success and survival rate increase significantly. Read below to learn more about risk reduction and advances in treatment.
Q. What are proactive steps or lifestyle changes women can make to reduce their risk?
The most important thing a woman can do to reduce her ovarian cancer risk is to know the early signs and symptoms of the disease and seek the care of a gynecologist or primary care physician for further evaluation if her symptoms last for 3 weeks or more. These symptoms include bloating, pelvic pain or pressure, loss of appetite or not being able to eat as much as you normally would or feeling the need to urinate frequently or often.
The use of oral contraceptives, mainly known for their prevention of pregnancy have also been proven to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Studies over a three-year period comparing women using oral contraceptives to women not using oral contraceptives, have shown a 30-50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. Someone who is considered high-risk based on family history and genetics may consider removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Q. Are there any recent advances in treatment or research that patients should be aware of?
There have been many advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer. Doctors are now performing laparoscopic procedures to determine if a patient would benefit from chemotherapy prior to surgery guaranteeing better surgical outcomes with less complicated surgical procedures.
We are also now able to specially target treatment to mutations or changes in genes specific to an individual’s unique cancer. This enables us to use treatments that may not have previously been recommended or considered for someone with the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
The most recent class of drugs that have shown to be effective in the treatment of ovarian cancer are PARP inhibitors. PARP inhibitors interfere with the function of proteins involved in the repair of DNA, causing cancer cells to die. These drugs are typically used in women who have recurrent ovarian cancer and is especially effective in women who have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.