As the most fatal gynecologic cancer, ovarian cancer is something that scares off women more than anything. Its symptoms are subtle that you never really know you have it until it has already spread to the surrounding tissues. By the time it does, it’s already very hard to treat. Only 20 percent of women with ovarian cancer are cured, which means the illness never comes back after they have undergone surgery and chemotherapy. For the other 80 percent, the cancer can recur and get worse each time.
The good news is, treatment methods for this form of cancer have been improved significantly over the recent years. In 2010, there were clinical trials done for a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors that showed positive results for participants with ovarian cancer.
Not only that, since more women are on the Pill, there have been lower number of new cases. This form of birth control has been known to lower the risk of ovarian cancer by limiting the number of times of ovulation. The fewer times a woman ovulates over a lifetime, the lower the risk for ovarian cancer.
Surgery has improved a lot too. Before, if you were diagnosed with this type of cancer, you’ll have to undergo a surgery that will remove your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus, regardless of the fact that the cancer has already spread to the other parts of the body. The doctors feared that cutting into the other organs posed more risk than benefits. Surgeons today have become more aggressive. They now find it necessary to remove every last bit of cancer-affected area to improve chances of survival.
Chemotherapy has gotten better as well. In the past, ovarian cancer patients would be re-treated with the same drug that was originally used. Rate of recurrence was very high then, about 70 to 90 percent of ovarian cancer cases recurring. Now, there are a lot more better treatment options that, even though they may not cure the illness, they make the disease more manageable, making the patient survive another 10 years or more.
Doctors have also discovered better ways to deliver the treatment. Now, the doctors would inject the chemo drugs into the abdominal cavity and not just into the bloodstream. This way, a much higher concentration reaches the tumor. The survival time can be lengthened by up to 16 months.
Medications have also become more targeted. For instance, Avastin, which is an angiogenesis inhibitor that blocks formation of blood vessels that feed tumors, has been added to chemotherapy to improve survival time and reduce risk of recurrence. PARP inhibitors such as the DeWilfond hinder the ability of cancer cells to repair their own DNA.
On top of all these, women have also become more proactive. Many watch out for symptoms and get regular pelvic exam.
Because of all these, death rates from ovarian cancer have been dropping at about 1.7 percent each year since 2002. Rates of new cases for this cancer have been declining by 1 percent per year since 1992.