Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: Know the Facts
- September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
- If your physician recommends surgery to treat ovarian cancer, it is important that the surgery be undertaken by a gynecologic oncologist, a specialist in the treatment of women’s cancers.
- Treatment for ovarian cancer usually includes surgery, chemotherapy and - in some cases - radiation therapy. It is important to have a conversation with your physician about your treatment options and what might be appropriate for you.
September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 20,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. For women, ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer and the fifth leading cause of cancer death.
Ovarian cancer is the growth of malignant cells that begin in the ovaries. Ovarian tumors can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Malignant tumors may spread to other areas, including the pelvis, abdomen and elsewhere. It is important to see your physician if you have the following symptoms:
- Bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
Being aware of your symptoms and getting yearly check-ups can help detect a medical condition that needs further evaluation or treatment.
Ovarian cancer is classified according to the type of cell from which cancer originates. Epithelial tumors are the most common form of ovarian cancer, according to the CDC. This form of cancer generally occurs in postmenopausal women and develops in the thin layer of tissue that covers the ovaries.
There are two other forms of ovarian cancer (germ cell tumors and stromal tumors) that account for less than 5 percent of the cases of ovarian cancer. Germ cell tumors form in the cells that form eggs and tend to be found in the younger population. The other form of malignancy is stromal tumors, which develop in the connective tissue cells that hold the ovary together.
The Crozer-Keystone Health Network currently has two board-certified gynecologic oncologists, Joel Noumoff, M.D., and Justin Chura, M.D., who specialize in the treatment of gynecologic cancers, including ovarian cancer. Treatment for ovarian cancer usually includes surgery, chemotherapy and ¾ in some cases ¾ radiation therapy.
“If your physician recommends surgery, it is important that the surgery be undertaken by a gynecologic oncologist, a specialist in the treatment of women’s cancers. Multiple research studies have shown improved outcomes for women treated by gynecologic oncologists compared to other surgeons,” says Chura, who is associate division director of Gynecologic Oncology at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. Chura is also the director of Crozer-Keystone’s Office of Clinical Research.
The surgery is traditionally done by an open abdominal procedure, requiring a long vertical incision. Recovery can take up to six weeks. For select patients, however, comprehensive staging can be undertaken via the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System. Available at the Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery at Springfield Hospital, the da Vinci incorporates the latest advances in robotics and computer technology to give surgeons exceptional control of instruments and clear three-dimensional views similar to those obtained in traditional open surgery. The system also improves the hospital experience for patients and shortens recovery time.
This procedure uses a state-of-the-art surgical system designed to perform the most precise and least invasive hysterectomy available today. Some of the benefits include less pain, less blood loss or need for a blood transfusion, lower risk of infection, shorter hospital stay, and smaller incision (resulting in minimal scarring). It is important to have a conversation with your physician about treatment options and what might be appropriate for you.
“Once surgery has been accomplished, the patient may have chemotherapy treatment. Medical advancements have improved in such a way that for a select group of patients, the chemotherapy can be directly administered into the abdomen, which is also called intra-peritoneal chemotherapy,” says Noumoff, who is the director of Gynecologic Oncology for Crozer-Keystone Health System. “This technique may help patients enjoy a longer survival rate. Physicians in the Division of Gynecologic Services at Crozer-Chester Medical Center provide this innovative technique.”
Additionally, if you have a family history of ovarian cancer, special tests are available to identity those at risk. The physician may suggest that the patient have her ovaries removed when she is done having children.
“Although the fight to cure cancer continues, technology and medicine have improved treatment options over the years. We are able to better identify patients at risk and treat their disease, providing a longer survival rate and a better quality of life,” says Noumoff.
Noumoff and Chura can be reached at (610) 876-9640. For more information about Crozer-Keystone cancer services, visit http://ckcancer.crozerkeystone.org.