Ovarian cancer, a very rare cancer often ignored

Women's Health

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A rare cancer amongst women, that often goes unnoticed. We’re talking about Ovarian Cancer.

When you compare the instance of breast cancer for women being one in every eight women, to ovarian cancer being about one in every 70 women diagnosed. That’s what makes it rare and limits research and treatment. One woman shares with News 5’s Amber Grigley how she discovered her diagnosis and how she plans to beat it.

After beating breast and uterine cancer twice before, hearing that she has stage 3 ovarian cancer took Donna Dodson by surprise.

“Tears came down and I said ‘get a grip’ you’re in control of your life, not cancer,” said Dodson.

“Ovarian cancer, I had researched it. But until it happens to you, you don’t know,” said Dodson.

Experts said ovarian cancer is a silent disease. Dr. Jennifer Scalici, Chief of Gynecologic at USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute likes to thnk it whispers and says the symptoms are commonly overlooked.

“Sometimes they’re very similar to the symptoms women have with their normal period. Similar to symptoms they have with irritable bowel syndrome. Really just a litany of things that women just push through and that’s really kind of what we do,” said Dr. Scalici.

About 60-70% of ovarian cancer found is in the advanced stages. Meaning the treatment involves surgery and chemotherapy.

Dr. Scalici said the most difficult part about this form of cancer is keeping it from coming back. She says a lot of the research is now directed at keeping it at bay and detecting the cancer early. The perfect model for the task is through hens.

“Egg-laying hens are the only other animal on the planet spontaneously develop ovarian cancer,” Dr.Scalici said. “I think the key to that research which is going to be great is it potentially gives us an opportunity to move a drug that was discovered here into a clinical trial of women to see if it works. The other thing is it gives us a window of what is actually happening in the development of ovarian cancer.”

Dodson has been getting treatment through immunotherapy.

“We’ve been working with a group to develop a really novel vaccine to basically trains a patient own body and immune system to recognize their specific tumor and fight it,” said Dr. Scalici.

Dodson is considered a success story for treatment, pushing this method to the next phase for FDA approval. Dodson says her fight against cancer is not only for her, but the other women to come behind her.

“For one thing, I’m still here. I find joy in small victories. I’m not going to let it get to me, I’m not going to sit at home and waddle in pitty,” said Dodson.

New research finds women who use IUD’s, pills or some form of birth control may be lowering their ovarian cancer risk. The risk reduction ranged from 30 to 40 percent after use for about five to ten years. Dr. Scalici said a study shows there’s some form of a hormonal contribution to the development of ovarian cancer. And birth control, specifically IUDs may be improving the outcome.

“That does not mean every woman out there who has never been on birth control is going to have ovarian cancer. We’re still trying to figure out how that perfect storm comes together. But in terms of prevention, birth control pills we know the IUDs seems to reduce of ovarian cancer if it’s progesterone containing IUD,” said Dr. Scalici.

Dr. Scalici suggests talking with your OB-GYN about what contraception is best for you.

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