Last updated: Aug 10, 2011
The rate of new cases of ovarian cancer has declined by 1% each year since 1992 (about 22,000 women will be diagnosed this year)possibly because so many women today are on the Pill, says Deborah Armstrong, MD, associate professor of oncology and OB-GYN at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore.
Another reason to praise the Pill: This form of birth control lowers your risk of ovarian cancer by reducing the number of times you ovulate.
—Health magazine, September 2011
The Pill prevents ovulation; the fewer times a woman ovulates over a lifetime, the lower her risk of ovarian cancer.
In the past, if you were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, youd typically have just your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus removed, even if the cancer had spreaddoctors feared that the risks of cutting into additional organs outweighed the benefits. But surgeons today are getting more aggressive, seeking to remove all evidence of cancer from the get-go, says Barbara Goff, MD, director of gynecologic oncology at the University of Washington. "Removing every last bit can make a difference in survival rates," says Dr. Goff, "and maybe even cure rates."
Chemo is getting better
Between 70 and 90% of ovarian cancer patients have a recurrence. "Ten years ago, we would typically re-treat them with the drug wed already used," says Carol Aghajanian, MD, a medical oncologist and head of the ovarian cancer chemotherapy research program at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "Most women succumbed to the illness within 18 to 22 months. Now there are lots of treatment options, and though they dont cure the illness, the disease is better controlled, sometimes for 10 years or more."
Avastin, for instance, is a so-called angiogenesis inhibitor, which blocks the formation of blood vessels that feed tumors. In research released in June, Dr. Aghajanian and her colleagues found that adding it to a chemo regimen lengthened survival time in women with a recurrence of the disease to a yearfour months longer than with chemo alone. PARP inhibitorslike the drug DeWilfond takesinterfere with cancer cells ability to repair their own DNA. Researchers reported in May that one such drug kept ovarian cancer at bay nearly twice as long as a placebo.
Probably not. Although catching it early is the best way to beat itthe later the stage at diagnosis, the higher the chance of recurrencedoctors say it doesnt make sense for most healthy women to be routinely screened. The reason: Our current tools (physical exams paired with transvaginal ultrasound and a blood test to check for the presence of CA125, a tumor marker) result in a high rate of false positives, which can lead to emotional distress and possibly unnecessary surgery.
pelvic, back, or abdominal pain
urinary urgency or frequency
feeling full more quickly than usual