Hopeful News From UC Davis on Ovarian Cancer

Posted on: September 1, 2015


By Gigi Chen, MD

A recent study published by University of California, Davis researchers suggests that we are making progress on treating ovarian cancer by extending patient lives. This is very exciting news!

The researchers combed through records from the California Cancer Registry of more than 11,000 women with an ovarian cancer diagnosis between 1994 and 2001.  Survival information and other factors for these women were tracked through 2011.  They found that one third lived more than 10 years.

Not surprising, the study found that the majority of the long-term survivors were younger, had early-stage disease at diagnosis and they had lower-risk tumors. What surprised the researchers was that 954 of the 3,582 women had been considered to be at ‘high risk ‘of an earlier death from their disease, either because of the advanced stage of their cancer or their older age at diagnosis, yet they too lived longer.

In the past, ovarian cancer had the reputation of being a death sentence, this study suggests otherwise.  “The perception that almost all women will die of this disease is not correct,” says Rosemary Cress, the lead author of UC Davis paper which was published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  “We think that this is good information to communicate to women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer – although ovarian cancer is a dangerous cancer, there is considerable variability and it is not always fatal,” continued Cress.

Explanations for this encouraging news include earlier diagnosis, better surgical treatment and more targeted chemotherapy. 

Ovarian cancer is one of the most overlooked and commonly misdiagnosed cancers because of its vague symptoms, which include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pressure or pain in the pelvic region, a change in bathroom habits and feeling full quickly when you eat.  It is through symptom recognition that the earliest possible diagnosis can be made. 

Gigi Chen, MD is a Medical Oncologist and Hematologist with Diablo Valley Oncology.  She sees patients in Pleasant Hill, Rossmoor and San Ramon. Join Dr. Chen and other medical experts at the Many Faces of Gynecologic Cancers on September 16, 2015 from 6:30-8:30 at the Cancer Support Community in Walnut Creek. For more information or to register for the program, please call 925-677-5041.