Entries in Ovarian Cancer (10)


Ovarian Cancer Tests for Healthy Women Unnecessary, Panel Says

Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A panel of medical experts warned Monday that tests for ovarian cancer should not be given to women who are healthy with only an average risk of the disease because the screenings are largely ineffective.

Dr. Virginia Moyer, chairwoman of the United States Preventive Services Task Force, which issued the report, said, "In fact, a high percentage of women who undergo screening experience false-positive test results and consequently may be subjected to unnecessary harms, such as major surgery."

According to the panel, screenings that involve blood tests and ultrasound scans often result in surgeries with high complication rates.

The same panel has come under some fire for warning against mammograms for women and PSA screening for prostate cancer for men when patients are under the age of 50.

However, this latest recommendation against ovarian cancer screenings also has the support of  the American Cancer Society and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Health experts are not denying the seriousness of ovarian cancer, which affects 22,280 annually, killing 15,500.

Generally, by the time the cancer is detected, it is already in advanced stages. Warning signs include persistent bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, feeling full early while eating and needing to urinate frequently.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Kathy Bates Reveals Why She Kept Ovarian Cancer a Secret

John Shearer/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Veteran actress Kathy Bates battled ovarian cancer almost a decade ago and is now opening up about why she originally kept her diagnosis a secret.

“I was advised to [do so],” Bates, 63, told Anderson Cooper in an episode of his daytime talk show Anderson airing Thursday. "I was contracted to go into a movie at that time, Little Black Book with Brittany Murphy, who I miss very much. My doctors at the time, they had to get insurance approval and all of that so I was very quiet about it and had to go back to work right away.”

Little Black Book
came out in 2004. Bates went public about her cancer battle in 2009, saying on NBC that she had been in remission for more than five years.

On Anderson, Bates said she also had personal reasons for keeping her diagnosis quiet.

“Nobody else really knows what you’re going through except another cancer patient,” she said. “Even though your family’s supportive and surrounds you, I just got to the point where I would go to chemo by myself and just really go through it on my own.”

Having toughed it out in secret, Bates said she would be more open about her fight if the cancer returned.

“I admire people who have been open, like Melissa Etheridge and women I see walking around facing it without wigs and all of that stuff,” she said. “I think I’d be more courageous next time.”

Bates isn’t the only actress to recently open up about hiding a cancer diagnosis. Modern Family star Sofia Vergara told Health magazine why she kept her thyroid cancer a secret when she was diagnosed in 2000.

“I didn’t want publicity because of that,” she said. “Having cancer is not fun. You don’t want to deal with anything else while you’re going through it.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Endometriosis Increases Risk of Certain Ovarian Cancers

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Women with a history of endometriosis are at a significantly increased risk of developing several types of ovarian cancers, according to a new study published in Lancet Oncology.

Endometriosis occurs when the cells from the lining of the uterus grow in other areas of the body, according to the National Institutes of Health. About 10 percent of women in their childbearing years experience it. It can cause pain and irregular bleeding and make it difficult to conceive.

The new research found that women with endometriosis have a three times higher risk of developing clear-cell ovarian cancer (which accounts for less than five percent of all ovarian cancer cases) and twice the risk of developing endometrioid tumors.

"Our data, taken with the other published data on the link between ovarian cancer and endometriosis strongly suggests a causal relationship, with endometriosis being a precursor lesion for these three types of ovarian cancer," Dr. Celeste Leigh Pearce, lead author of the study and a preventive medicine researcher at the University of Southern California, told ABC News.

Researchers analyzed the link between endometriosis and ovarian cancer rates from data compiled by the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium, a forum of investigators of case-control studies on the cancer. Tuesday's published study included data from more than 23,000 women with ovarian cancer.

"This excellent study brings home the point to all primary care physicians that women with endometriosis, surgically proven or self-reported by symptoms, deserve to have available all options to limit this ectopic endometrial growth," said Dr. Diane Harper, director of the Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group at the University of Missouri-Kansas.

A woman with a mother or sister with endometriosis is significantly more likely to contract endometriosis than other women, according to the NIH. Other risks of developing the condition include beginning menstruating at an early age, never having children and frequent and long-lasting periods. The most telling sign of endometriosis is pain -- during and before menstruation, sexual intercourse, and found in the abdomen, lower back and pelvic area.

While this is not the first time that a link between endometriosis and ovarian cancer has been studied, Dr. Mark Einstein, director of gynecologic oncology at Montefiore Medical Center, said the combining of studies offers a better understanding of the strength of the association between endometriosis and ovarian cancers.

Authors warned that most women who suffer from endometriosis never develop ovarian cancers, but the findings should alert patients and physicians of the high risks.

Dr. Diane Yamada of the Society for Gynecologic Oncology Communications Committee said that while the study should not be a cause of alarm for women with endometriosis, the research "may allow for an opportunity to identify symptoms associated with another disease process, which may help identify these patients."

Recent studies have even found that ultrasounds and blood tests intended to screen for ovarian cancer actually did more harm than good by undergoing unnecessary follow-up treatments and surgeries. At this point, Yamda said it would be a "leap of faith" to recommend that women should undergo rigorous screening, but the information offers new clues on how and who to screen to prevent the cancer, which causes about 15,000 American deaths each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Should Nuns Take the Pill for Health Reasons?

Hemera/Thinkstock(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- The world’s 94,790 nuns pay an unexpected price for their chastity: an increased risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.

A commentary by Australian researchers highlights the health hazards many nuns could face because of nulliparity (the condition of never being pregnant) -- hazards they say could be minimized by the birth control pill.

“If the Catholic Church could make the oral contraceptive pill freely available to all its nuns, it would reduce the risk of those accursed pests, cancer of the ovary and uterus, and give nuns’ plight the recognition it deserves,” Kara Britt of Monash University in Victoria and Roger Short of the University of Melbourne wrote in The Lancet.

The term “accursed pests” was first used to describe breast cancer among nuns by Italian physician Bernadino Ramazzini in 1713. Since then, severe epidemiological studies have confirmed the risk, including a study of more than 31,658 Catholic nuns in the U.S. between 1900 and 1954 that found an increased risk of dying from breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.

Because they don’t experience pregnancy or lactation, women who don’t have sex have more ovulatory menstrual cycles.  That increased number of cycles is directly linked to an increased risk of cancer.  But the birth control pill -- a form of contraception condemned by the Catholic Church -- has been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer by up to 60 percent.

“The Catholic Church condemns all forms of contraception except abstinence, as outlined by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae in 1968,” wrote Britt and Short. “Although Humanae Vitae never mentions nuns, they should be free to use the contraceptive pill to protect against the hazards of nulliparity since the document states that 'the Church in no way regards as unlawful therapeutic means considered necessary to cure organic diseases, even though they also have a contraceptive effect.'"

Oral contraceptives can increase the risk of blood clots, a risk thought to be higher in some newer versions of the pill.  But the pill’s cancer risk-reducing effects are well-documented, wrote Britt and Short, and nuns should be able to benefit from them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: 'The Pill' Slashes Ovarian Cancer Risk

Comstock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Early detection of ovarian cancer remains elusive but, in the meantime, women can significantly reduce their risk of this feared malignancy by using birth control pills and having babies.

Women who take the pill for 10 years nearly halve their risk of developing ovarian cancer, according to a large study that followed about 300,000 European women for an average of nine years.

The study, published this week in the British Journal of Cancer, confirmed findings of previous studies, including a large review in 2008, which reported that so-called "ever use" of the pill is protective.  Authors of the latest study said ever-users of oral contraceptives had a 15 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer than never-users, but women who took the pill for a decade or more slashed their risk 45 percent.

Put another way, the researchers found about 15 ovarian cancer cases for every 100,000 women who took the pill for at least a decade, compared with about 28 ovarian cancer cases for every 100,000 women on the pill a year or less.

Women need to individualize their decisions based upon their family history and other risk factors.  The pill's protective effect on the ovaries could be particularly important to women with ovarian cancer in their family, but they might want to weigh the protection against increased breast cancer risk associated with hormonal contraceptives.  The breast cancer risk "disappears after use has stopped," according to a statement from Cancer Research UK, which co-sponsored the new study.

"The data on breast cancer and oral contraceptives is still conflicting," Dr. James Speyer, medical director of the NYU Langone Clinical Cancer Center, said Wednesday. "For most women, it does not pose significant risk.  For those with strong family histories, they may wish to consider possible increased risk."

With a growing amount of genetic information becoming available, Speyer said, "we may be better able to determine which women gain a greater protective effect from oral contraceptives and which do not.  Coupled with other risk factors and family history, we will be better able to advise patients in the future."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Genital Warts on the Rise in Older Women

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Genital warts are on the rise in women, particularly those over 40, prompting a new recommendation for prevention and treatment from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology.

The number of women with genital warts, or vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) has quadrupled since the ’70s, the groups said -- a rise thought to stem from increased exposure to the human papilloma virus. The virus, known as HPV, is the same sexually transmitted disease that causes cancers of the cervix, penis, anus and throat. And although most genital warts are benign, some can progress to vulvar cancer.

“Although VIN appears to be increasing in the U.S., the risk of vulvar cancer is small when compared with cervical, ovarian and uterine cancers,” Dr. L. Stewart Massad, a member of the ACO Committee on Gynecologic Practice, said in a statement about the recommendations scheduled for release Nov. 1. “VIN is similar to precancerous cervical lesions in that they are both generally slow-growing.”

The slow-growing nature of VIN is the reason women older than 40 have a higher incidence, although young women can develop VIN too, Massad said.

The only way to diagnose VIN is by visually examining the warts. Massad said women should use a hand mirror to check the area for unusual spots and make an appointment with a gynecologist if they see any changes.

Like precancerous cervical lesions caused by HPV, VIN can be treated with surgery or laser ablation to reduce the risk of cancer. But even with treatment, VIN can recur. Massad said women diagnosed with VIN should go for check-ups at six-month or one-year intervals.

The HPV vaccine used to prevent cervical cancer also helps prevent VIN, but won’t help treat it in women already infected with HPV.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Doctors Use Dye to Light Up Ovarian Cancer Cells

Courtesy of Philip Low(WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.) -- A dye that tracks tumors and glows under fluorescent light helps guide doctors during cancer surgery.  Dutch doctors recently used the dye, likened to a homing device, to light up ovarian cancer cells during surgery in a small study of 10 patients.

“Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to see, and this technique allowed surgeons to spot a tumor 30 times smaller than the smallest they could detect using standard techniques,” Philip Low, the Purdue University chemistry professor who invented the dye, said in a statement.  “By dramatically improving the detection of the cancer -- by literally lighting it up -- cancer removal is dramatically improved.”

The study results were published Sunday in Nature Medicine.

Surgical cancer removal is usually followed by other treatments, such as chemotherapy, that work better when fewer cancer cells remain.

“With ovarian cancer, it is clear that the more cancer you can remove, the better the prognosis for the patient,” Low said in a statement.  “This is why we chose to begin with ovarian cancer.  It seemed like the best place to start to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Although researchers tested the dye in patients with ovarian cancer, Low told ABC's Good Morning America Monday that he envisioned the same strategy working for 40 percent of cancers.

The dye is linked to folate -- a vitamin absorbed by cells to varying degrees.  Ovarian cancer has one of the highest rates of folate receptor expression, Low said.  But lung, kidney, endometrial, breast and colon cancers can express the receptor, too.

Other dyes have been shown to target and illuminate tumors.  But Low said his dye is much more specific, providing better contrast between tumors and the healthy tissue that borders them.

Low said he and his team plan to work with the Mayo clinic on the next stage of clinical trials.  In the meantime, they will continue to work to improve the dye.

“We want to be able to see deeper into the tissue, beyond the surface,” Low said in a statement.  “Different cancers have tumors with different characteristics, and some branch and wind their way deeper into tissue.  We will continue to evolve this technology and make improvements that help cancer patients.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Breast, Ovarian Cancer: Doctors Not Ordering Gene Tests

Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Despite evidence showing that medical interventions can significantly decrease the likelihood of breast and ovarian cancer in high-risk women, some doctors still are not adhering to guidelines referring these patients to genetic testing and counseling.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called this finding "concerning" as it released a survey this week of nearly 1,900 physicians who were asked to review hypothetical patient cases and then report whether they would or would not recommend genetic counseling and testing.

The CDC team polled doctors that had been given scenarios for patients with average risk or high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Genetic counseling and testing is recommended for women at high risk of ovarian cancer.

Women with a close blood relative who has had breast cancer are considered high risk for the disease, and women who have had it before are considered to be at high risk of having it again. Both of these groups are recommended to have genetic testing and counseling, particularly if they are found to carry mutations in breast cancer susceptibility genes -- otherwise known as BRCA 1/2 gene mutations.

The study found that just 41 percent of physicians would have referred a high-risk patient for ovarian or breast cancer to genetic counseling and testing.

Dr. Katrina Trivers, the study's lead author and an epidemiologist at the CDC, said the study was not meant to be alarmist.

"[The 41 percent] does seem low to me," she said, "but this is not a particularly straightforward study. Guidelines are complicated. It's difficult to know what makes a woman high risk. Guidelines differ on what is considered high risk."

She said that in the case of gene mutations, the number of women with BRCA 1/2 was relatively small and that knowing a person's family history of disease was incredibly important for those with BRCA 1/2 because it could mean medical interventions that could decrease a person's likelihood of getting cancer.

When it came to average-risk women, 29 percent of doctors said they would refer a patient to genetic counseling and testing. The study said this was "an inefficient use of resources."

Dr. Virginia Kaklamani, an associate professor at Northwestern University and co-director of the Cancer Genetics Program, said that while there was no harm in a woman receiving genetic counseling, testing could be harmful because unnecessary tests could just lead to increased anxieties in a patient.

"From the public standpoint, the most important thing to take from the [CDC's] papers is to know your family history," said the CDC's Trivers. "Not only breast and ovarian cancer. Of all cancers and other major chronic diseases. Ask questions. Get information from your family about diseases including specific types, ages when they were diagnosed. And really share that with your doctor."

She said the study's results also highlighted the medical community's need to support primary-care physicians more in their understanding of risk assessment. She said tools need to be developed to educate doctors about how to assess risk accurately as well.

Only 34 percent of family physicians and 41 percent of general internists surveyed by the CDC followed the guidelines on assessing a high-risk patient. Previous research found that doctors often felt like they were not able to fully understand and apply the guidelines to their patients, Trivers said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How Effective Is Early Screening for Ovarian Cancer?

Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Early screening has become an integral tool in cancer detection. But it doesn't always work for all types of cancer.

In a new study presented at the current meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, researchers found that blood tests and ultrasound-based screening for early ovarian cancer does not reduce the risk of dying from the disease. Furthermore, they found that the screenings of almost 80,000 women resulted in a large number of false positives which led to a large number of unnecessary biopsies and sometimes serious compilations.  

While ovarian cancer is only the seventh-most-common form of cancer in women, it is the fifth-leading cause of death.  That's because ovarian cancer is difficult to detect until the cancer has often spread outside the ovaries to other organs.

The tests that do exist are good at evaluating the progress of advanced ovarian cancer but are not good at detecting it at an early, more curable stage.  One of the best ways to detect the disease remains self-awareness. Women should know the risk factors, which include a family history of cancer, being over 55 years of age and never having been pregnant.  Symptoms are often non-specific, but can include swelling, pelvic pressure, frequent urination, back and leg pain and unusual vaginal bleeding.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Quarter of Early Ovarian Cancer Patients Not Given Biopsies

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DAVIS, Calif.) - New research suggests that more than a quarter of women with presumed early-stage ovarian cancer are at an increased risk of death because they do not get recommended biopsies, reports HealthDay News.

Researchers at the University of California Davis Cancer Center and California Cancer Registry found that records of 721 apparent early-stage ovarian cancer patients showed that just 72 percent had the recommended lymph nodes biopsies, which can reveal whether cancer has spread.

A further review found that the five-year survival rate for those who did not receive the biopsies was 69 percent, compared to 84 percent for patients who underwent the biopsies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio