Ovarian cancer is the second most common gynecologic cancer in the U.S. and causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer often goes undetected due to its subtle symptoms but if diagnosed and treated early, treatment success and survival rate increases significantly.
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 three weeks or more. These symptoms include bloating, pelvic pain or pressure, menstrual changes, loss of appetite or not being able to eat as much as you normally would or feeling the need to urinate frequently or often.
Currently, there are no screening tests available for ovarian cancer. Identifying early warning signs and talking with your doctor about genetic testing if you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer are your most powerful tools for early detection.
Some mutations (changes in genes) can raise your risk for ovarian cancer. Mutations in the breast cancer susceptibility genes 1 and 2 (BRCA1 and BRCA2), and those associated with Lynch syndrome, raise ovarian cancer risk.
Recent treatment advances are enabling 10-year survival times for ovarian cancer. Today, drugs called PARP inhibitors target BRCA mutations by preventing cancer cells from repairing damaged DNA. The PARP inhibitor olaparib, first approved only for women with BRCA mutations, was recently approved for women who relapsed after standard therapy, and in combination with bevacizumab as maintenance therapy for patients with specific gene mutations and advanced disease.
A gynecologic oncologist is a doctor who is trained to treat cancers of a woman’s reproductive system. Not only do they have expertise in performing surgery for gynecologic cancers, but they also administer chemotherapy and work with supportive care specialists such as nutritionists, social workers, and radiation oncologists to offer comprehensive care to patients.
Surgery is the first treatment for ovarian cancer, followed by a growing range of other therapies to help prevent disease recurrence. Previously, most women with newly diagnosed ovarian cancer were treated with standard surgery and chemotherapy, but most relapsed.
Established as a treatment for women with recurrent disease, PARP inhibitors are now being used in the setting of maintenance therapy for women who are either newly diagnosed, have completed chemotherapy, or those who have had recurrent disease and are now in their second remission. While these agents have provided significant benefit in prolonging survival, it remains unknown how women with recurrent disease should be treated.
An exciting new study called the DUETTE Study is being offered at Summit Medical Group to investigate the effectiveness of a second maintenance treatment in platinum-sensitive relapsed patients who have previously received PARP inhibitor treatment. Led by principal investigator Darlene Gibbon, MD, Medical Director of Gynecologic Oncology at Summit Medical Group, the study aims to determine complete response, partial response, or disease stability in women with relapsed ovarian cancer.
Summit Medical Group offers clinical trials to examine new treatment options and develop ways to prevent, diagnose treat and improve quality of life. Clinical research helps determine whether treatments are safe and effective. Additional resources include the sites listed below.
- NIH Clinical Research Trials and You (National Institutes of Health)
- Search for Clinical Trials (National Cancer Institute)
- Clinical Trials.gov (National Institutes of Health)
Summit Medical Group Cancer Center
The Department of Gynecologic Oncology is part of Summit Medical Group Cancer Center which offers comprehensive, coordinated, patient-centric care for all types of cancers. The program provides a full spectrum of care from screening, prevention, and treatment through survivorship via world-class expertise, access to proven treatment protocols, surgical, diagnostic, and therapeutic ancillary services, genetic counseling, and select clinical trials.