Ovarian Cancer Not as Fatal as Thought

Ovarian Cancer Not as Fatal as ThoughtOvarian Cancer Not as Fatal as Thought

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths among women in the US, according to the American Cancer Society. However, a new study offers hope for women diagnosed with the disease; the 10-year survival rate is higher than previously thought.

What is more, the study - published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology - identified long-term survival in some women with ovarian cancer who had factors associated with poor survival - such as older age and later-stage diagnosis.

“The perception that almost all women will die of this disease is not correct,” says lead study author Rosemary Cress, of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of California-Davis (UC Davis).

“This information will be helpful to physicians who first diagnose the patients and the obstetricians/gynecologists who take care of them after they receive treatment from specialists,” she adds.

Around 21,290 women in the US will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, and more than 14,000 are expected to die from the disease. The cancer is most common among older women, with more than half of cases diagnosed in women aged 63 or older.

According to the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER), the 5-year survival rate for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is 45.6%. While few studies have investigated longer-term survival for patients with ovarian cancer, the rate of survival past 5 years after diagnosis is estimated to be poor.

For their study, Cress and colleagues set out to estimate the 10-year survival rates for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

The team analyzed data from the California Cancer Registry, identifying 11,541 women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer - the most common form of the disease, accounting for 9 in 10 cases - between 1994 and 2001.

Researchers found that of these women, 3,582 (31%) survived for more than 10 years following diagnosis. Among them were 954 women who had been at high risk of because they were an older age at the time of diagnosis, had a higher tumor grade or were diagnosed with later-stage cancer.

“We were a little surprised at the large number of long-term survivors of this disease that is commonly perceived as highly fatal cancer,” Cress said, reports

Though this research is unable to pinpoint exactly why so many women with ovarian cancer are surviving, study co-author Gary Leiserowitz, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UC Davis, says it may be down to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations present in some patients with the disease; women with these mutations often respond to chemotherapy better than those without.

In addition, Leiserowitz says that among patients with advanced ovarian cancer, biological differences may impact individual treatment outcomes, and some patients may receive more effective treatment than others, increasing their likelihood of survival.