Ovarian Cancer affects thousands of women and their families each year. According to the American Cancer Society, each year, 21,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and each year over 13,000 women die from the disease.
While this is troubling news to hear we, like most people connected to Ovarian Cancer, are hopeful for the future. There are new research projects on early detection and there are promising new drugs on the horizon.
Why Early Detection Is Not Easy
While early detection often leads to better outcomes, early detection of ovarian cancer has proven to be especially difficult. When diagnosed and treated in Stage 1, the five-year survival rates go up exponentially. However, in the early stages of the disease many patients are asymptomatic, so fewer than 15% of patients are even diagnosed in Stage 1. The unfortunate truth is that as much as 60% of women are diagnosed at Stage 3 or 4.
If there are any symptoms, they tend to be vague and closely mimic other (more benign) conditions (like irritable bowel syndrome or even premenstrual syndrome). The only difference is that with ovarian cancer, the symptoms often persist or worsen over time.
Early symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- pain or pressure, or discomfort in the pelvic area
- unexpected vaginal bleeding
- pain in the back or abdomen
- abdominal bloating
- premature satiety when eating
- more frequent urination
- changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
- weight loss
Risk Factors For Ovarian Cancer
While ovarian cancer can happen at any age, it is most common in women between the ages of 50 and 60.
Women with close relatives who have had ovarian cancer have an increased risk of the disease.
Inherited Gene Mutations
Approximately 20% of ovarian cancers are caused by an inherited gene mutation. The genes most likely responsible for an increased risk of ovarian cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2, the same genes that have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Postmenopausal Hormonal Replacement Therapy
A recent study showed that women who took estrogen and progestin as hormone replacement therapy after menopause had an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Exposure To Talc
In recent years there has been growing evidence that the long term use of talcum powder is associated with an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Research has shown that when women use talcum powder (or baby powder) for personal hygiene, the talc migrates from the external genital area, making its way to the ovaries. It has also become evident that Johnson and Johnson, one of the largest healthcare companies in the world, knew about the link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer since the 1970s and did nothing about it.
Learn More About The Talcum
Powder Ovarian Cancer Link
Ovarian Cancer Statistics
Unfortunately, ovarian cancer now ranks fifth for deaths among cancers of the female reproductive system. Research estimates that women have a 1 in 78 chance of getting ovarian cancer and a 1 in 108 chance of dying from it. Statistically, ovarian cancer is more prevalent in white women, and approximately half of the women diagnosed with the disease are over the age of 60.
If ovarian cancer is detected early, the five-year survival rate is as high as 93%. However, if you know anything about cancer, you may know that assessing a survival rate is never a straightforward answer. There are far too many variables that stand in the way of a black and white answer.
Read One Woman's Inspiring
Story of Ovarian Cancer
Even when estimating a five-year survival rate, one needs to understand the four stages of cancer (1, 2, 3, or 4) and the type of ovarian cancer one has (i.e. epithelial, stromal or germ cell). Moreover, things like age and overall health play a crucial role in prognosis, and even individual responses to cancer treatments can vary widely.
So, while an in-depth analysis of ovarian cancer survival rates is beyond the scope of this article, here is some information that may help you better understand the nuances of ovarian cancer survival rates.
New Developments In Early Detection, Prevention, And Treatments
Continuing research into the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are shedding new light on the prevention of ovarian cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, “mathematical models have been developed that help estimate how many years of life an average woman with a BRCA mutation might gain by having both ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to prevent a cancer from developing.”
Armed with this information, women can now make powerful and important decisions about their health and take a proactive approach toward the prevention of ovarian cancer.
Knowing that early detection has a powerful effect on the survival rate, researchers are hard at work in an effort to identify new ways to screen for the disease. One method that is currently being evaluated for early detection of ovarian cancer is proteomics or the study of proteins in the blood. The use of Functional MRI’s is also being evaluated for their efficacy in early detection.
While Chemotherapy has long been an option for the treatment of ovarian cancer, researchers are testing new drugs and new drug cocktails for Chemotherapy. They are even testing a revolutionary approach to treating ovarian cancer that involves using heated chemotherapy, heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC with promising results.
Targeted Therapy – using drugs to attack and kill cancer cells without harming normal, healthy cells, and minimally invasive surgeries are also being appraised for the treatment of ovarian cancer.
A Promising New Drug
According to a new study led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGEN), researchers are studying a promising new drug known as SP-2577. In clinical trials, SP-2577 has been shown to impede LSD1, the protein believed to be responsible for triggering and accelerating other types of cancer. SP-2577 has also proven especially beneficial in the treatment of Small Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary, Hypercalcemic Type (SCCOHT), a type of ovarian cancer where cells are teeming with LSD1.
Ovarian Cancer Charities And How You Can Help
If you would like to make a charitable donation towards ovarian cancer research, volunteer or get involved in some way, there are plenty of organizations that offer such opportunities.
Clearity Foundation strives to improve the survival and quality of life of women with ovarian cancer. All of Clearity’s services are provided free of charge. Clearity believes all patients should have access to the most advanced care, personalized for them, regardless of their ability to pay.
Learn about their Teal Woman Event on September 13th, 2020 of which we are a proud sponsor.
OCRA is the oldest and largest ovarian cancer charity in the world. OCRA privately funds scientific research for ovarian cancer, they serve as advocates for federal funding and research, and they provide a wealth of services and support for women and their families. For more information on how you can get involved visit here
Through national programs and local chapters, The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition seeks to raise awareness about the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and provide guidance to newly diagnosed patients and support for their families and caregivers. To find a local chapter, volunteer, or for more ways to help visit here