Posts Tagged ‘ ovarian cancer ’

Angelina Jolie’s Double Mastectomy Raises BRCA-1 Gene Awareness

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

The actress Angelina Jolie’s announcement this week that she underwent multiple surgeries for a double mastectomy has given a very public face to the difficult decisions women face if they find out they have the BRCA-1 gene, which significantly raises a woman’s risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer in her lifetime.  Many women, like Jolie, undergo preventative surgeries to remove their breasts, ovaries, or both.  The decision is particularly grueling for women who may want to have children before surgery.

Jolie, in a New York Times editorial, wrote about her decision and how, although complex, her surgeries have not negatively affected her family:

I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.

It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.

I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition. Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has.

For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.

Image: Angelina Jolie, via vipflash /

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Fertility Drugs Not Found to Increase Ovarian Cancer Risk

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Fertility drugs that stimulate the functioning of a woman’s ovaries do not add to her chances of developing ovarian cancer later in life, a new study has found. Though previous studies had made similar conclusions, many of those were conducted outside of the United States, whereas the new study was conducted on U.S. women.  Reuters has more:

“One important message is women who need to use fertility drugs to get pregnant should not worry about using these fertility drugs,” said Dr. Albert Asante, lead author of the study and a clinical fellow in the division of reproductive endocrinology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota….

….Infertility, defined as not getting pregnant after a year of trying, is experienced by about 15 percent of couples.

Asante’s team looked specifically at whether women in the study who reported being infertile- whether or not they had taken fertility drugs – had a greater chance of developing ovarian cancer, and found no added risk.

Asante said one explanation for the result is that most of the women in his study had infertility issues, but eventually became pregnant. He would still expect to see a higher risk of ovarian cancer if he had included more women who never ended up having a baby.

Asante left open the possibility that long term use of fertility drugs – more than one year – could impact the chance of developing ovarian cancer, and to be safe these women might benefit from additional monitoring for tumors.

He said that because ovarian cancer is rare and develops later in life, there is a need for longer studies to thoroughly assess the effect of fertility drugs.

According to the National Cancer Institute, close to 13 out of every 100,000 women develop ovarian cancer, most commonly in their 60s. Family history of the disease or certain gene mutations raise a woman’s risk considerably.

Image: Fertility injection, via Shutterstock


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Ovarian Cancer Screenings Found Ineffective by Panel

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Standard screening tests for ovarian cancer, including blood tests and ultrasound images of the ovaries, do not lower the death rate from the disease, and in fact yield an alarming number of false positive results, the United States Preventative Services Task Force has found.  The New York Times reports:

“There is no existing method of screening for ovarian cancer that is effective in reducing deaths,” said Dr. Virginia A. Moyer, the chairwoman of the expert panel, the United States Preventive Services Task Force. “In fact, a high percentage of women who undergo screening experience false-positive test results and consequently may be subjected to unnecessary harms, such as major surgery.”

The advice against testing applies only to healthy women with an average risk of ovarian cancer, not to those with suspicious symptoms or those at high risk because they carry certain genetic mutations or have a family history of the disease.

The recommendations are just the latest in a series of challenges to cancer screenings issued by the panel, which has also rejected P.S.A. screening for prostate cancer in men and routine mammograms in women under 50. The task force is a group of 16 experts, appointed by the government but independent, that makes recommendations about screening tests and other efforts to prevent disease. Its advice is based on medical evidence, not cost.

Image: Woman getting blood test, via Shutterstock

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Fertility Drugs May Increase Ovarian Cancer Risk

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Drugs that stimulate egg production in women’s ovaries, an integral part of the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process, double the chances of women developing either cancerous or “borderline” ovarian tumors, a Dutch study has found.  The cancer rates remain relatively low, but the findings have researchers urging further study of potential risk.

Reuters reports that the study examined 25,000 women over 15 years and found that IVF patients were twice as likely to develop ovarian malignancies as women who struggled with fertility but did not undergo IVF.

The risk was greater with borderline tumors, which contain abnormal cells but are not yet cancerous.  Often, surgery to remove borderline tumors results in the removal of the entire ovary.

Experts emphasize that “risk” is not the same as “likelihood.”  Of the 19,000 IVF patients who were studied, only 61 ovarian malignancies were detected, which is a low percentage of the full group.

“The results should be kept in proportion as the increase shown was from around five in a thousand to seven per thousand women,” Peter Braude of Kings College London, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters.

Fertility treatments and cancer were already in the news after Giuliana Rancic revealed that she discovered she has breast cancer after her fertility doctor insisted on a mammogram.  A Cleveland Clinic doctor told, “IVF drugs do not cause cancer,” though women with risk factors should discuss their overall health picture with their doctors.

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