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There is hope: Advancements in ovarian cancer treatment provides hope for patients

November 05, 2012

When women are told they have a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, their first thought is usually fear. This is the cancer that we don’t always talk about. This is the cancer where we don’t see so many runs and walks and rallies and ribbons adorning the food we buy and the events we attend. It’s not pink. It’s teal. Is teal scarier? Well, breast cancer is no walk in the park, but what about teal?

When we look at breast cancer, we see strides in survival. Progress. I think it’s important to remember that we’ve also seen that in ovarian cancer. Hope is there.

How is ovarian cancer treated?

With both surgery and chemotherapy. While early stage cancers and certain types of ovarian cancer may require no chemotherapy at all, in general it is a combination of the two. We use surgery to remove the big disease, allowing the chemotherapy to work better on the smaller disease.

What is new in treatment?

There have been amazing advances in the last 20 years. We are better at doing more complex surgeries to remove the tumor than we were in the past. We have robotics and laparoscopy which make it possible for us to perform complex surgeries through small incisions. We have special tools such as the argon beam coagulator that substantially reduces blood loss during surgical procedures, and the cavitron ultrasonic surgical aspirator (CUSA), which is a dissecting device that uses ultrasonic frequencies to fragment tissue, just to name a couple. We’re able to do more with less complications and blood loss. Hope is there.

We are also able to better treat the cancer with chemotherapy, when needed. Our options for top of the line treatment have expanded with the introduction of treatments such as:

  • Dose-dense chemotherapy is a chemotherapy treatment plan in which drugs are given with less time between treatments than in a standard chemotherapy treatment plan. This treatment aims to maximize tumor kill by increasing the rate of chemotherapy delivery, not the dosage.
  • Carboplatin is a highly effective chemotherapy drug for ovarian cancer, with notably less side effects than its parent drug, cisplatin.
  • Liposomal doxorubicin is a chemotherapy drug usually given to treat advanced ovarian cancer and other advanced cancers.
  • Intraperitoneal chemotherapy is highly effective because the drug is delivered directly to the peritoneum (abdominal lining).
We also have vascular inhibitors and targeted therapies such as Avastin® to add to our arsenal. Hope is there.

New research is also constantly underway

At UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health we have many clinical trials ongoing, providing insight into this disease and helping women gain access to cutting edge ideas and treatment. As we strive to achieve better outcomes and reduce side effects, this is a great advantage.

My role as a cancer care provider is to help people through this difficult process. I work as a guide to navigate the role of surgery, chemotherapy, and sometimes even radiation or localized treatments with other specialties. It’s truly an honor and privilege to help. The best message I can bring women is that there is hope with ovarian cancer. It may be tough at times, but we gynecologic oncologists are here to help. I strive to personalize care for my patients and treat each person as a person.

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