Few diseases can upend a woman’s life quite like cancer can. According to Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest independent cancer research organization, there are no less than 200 types of cancer that can attack the body at any given time. Those that are more common or exclusive to women include breast, thyroid, cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancer. That’s according to the Moffitt Cancer Center. As unsettling as this might all seem, there is a silver lining worth highlighting. Women are less likely than men to develop cancer in general. By the way, baseless, unsubstantiated conjecture this is not. According to Medscape, an online resource for clinical news, medical information, and point-of-care tools for physicians aimed at nurse practitioners and other healthcare professionals, men have a 1 in 2 chance of being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime compared to 1 in 3 in women. Another study from Cancer Research UK shows women are 40% less likely to die from cancer than men.
What Women Should Know About Ovarian Cancer
Although nowhere as common as breast, thyroid, cervical, or uterine, ovarian cancer is gaining more and more attention in the scientific and medical community. And we will soon discuss why that’s the case. In the interim, let’s take a moment to highlight some key facts concerning this particular cancer that triggers the abnormal growth of cells in a woman’s ovaries. Available data shows a woman’s lifetime chance of developing ovarian cancer is only 1 in 78. Further, the probability of a woman dying from ovarian cancer is 1 in 108. All in all, the chances of women developing or dying from this type of cancer are low. But it is worth noting that women with a female family member diagnosed with it are more likely to develop the disease than women who do not.
There are three types of ovarian cancer: epithelial ovarian carcinomas, germ cell tumors, and stromal cell tumors. The symptoms associated with each are mostly the same and include the following:
- A frequent need to urinate
- Abdominal swelling
- Back pain
- Changes in bowel habits
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Early satiety
- Unintentional weight loss
What Are the Current Treatment Options?
Like other cancers, treatments for this cancer generally involve surgery and chemotherapy, with the stage of the disease dictating when and what treatment is appropriate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), surgery involves removing cancerous tissue from a woman’s ovaries. Chemotherapy, meanwhile, is a treatment modality that utilizes cancer-fighting drugs administered orally or intravenously to help shrink or kill cancer cells in the ovaries. That said, neither treatment is a cure; they are treatments intended to send the disease into remission so that women can go on to live a reasonably healthy, long, and fulfilling life.
Although traditional cancer treatments are effective and have helped send ovarian cancer into remission for countless women, a few newer ones are proving to be even better. That explains why it is becoming a hot topic among researchers in medical and scientific communities, especially as it relates to women diagnosed with advanced-stage ovarian cancer, which is usually resistant to chemotherapy. One of those new treatments is a chemotherapy drug called adavosertib. According to a study published by the National Cancer Institute, this drug is especially beneficial to women with advanced-stage or treatment-resistant cancer because it helps regulate how cancer cells grow and divide. The study further revealed that adavosertib, especially when combined with gemcitabine, a chemotherapy drug that disrupts DNA replication, reduces the risk of disease progression and death in women diagnosed with recurrent ovarian cancer.
Ovarian Cancer Breakthroughs: Scientists Discuss How the Complement System Can Help the Immune System Fight Ovarian Cancer
New cancer treatment progress currently being made by researchers in organizations across the country means more women will one day be able to survive this deadly disease. Some of that progress centers around the complement system, a part of the immune system. According to researchers with MD Anderson committed to finding ovarian cancer breakthrough treatments, cancer in the ovaries produces complement proteins that get released into cancerous tumors, which causes them to grow. And this prompted researchers to look into anti-complement inhibitors that could help turn off the complement system. An example of such a complement inhibitor is the C5aR antagonist, which researchers said did a remarkable job of blocking tumor growth and ovarian cancer progression. According to one of the researchers, Vahid Afshar-Kharghan, the goal is to use C5aR and other complement inhibitors as a new treatment for ovarian cancer that can be used alongside traditional chemotherapy, not as an ovarian cancer cure per se but as treatment, to help send otherwise treatment-resistant ovarian cancer into remission.
In summary, although more research is needed to evaluate the safety and efficacy relative to new ovarian cancer treatments, things do look promising. And if all goes according to plan, they will each someday play a role in saving the lives of countless women diagnosed with the disease.