The latest news on ovarian cancer research

Here's an update on what you can do to prevent this 'silent killer'

By Melissa Greer

The latest news on ovarian cancer research

Ovarian Cancer Canada reports that each year 2,600 Canadian women are diagnosed with the disease—and as many as two thirds of them die from it. Symptoms are vague and non-specific, so diagnosis is often missed until the cancer is too advanced. There is still no screening method—a Pap smear does not detect ovarian cancer, contrary to what some people believe. And a blood test (which is called CA-125) is woefully inadequate. While it once held promise, the test is unreliable for screening because it produces too many false positive and false negative results, according to Ovarian Cancer Canada.

But there’s hope. A study published this year in Gynecologic Oncology is the first to find a link between high blood calcium levels and the incidence of ovarian cancer; research is still being done on this. And according to Karen Cinq Mars at Ovarian Cancer Canada, the current buzz is around Fallopian tube research and the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

Here’s what you can ask your doctor about:

• Research suggests the most common (and deadliest) type of ovarian cancer is generated in the Fallopian tubes. Removing them during a hysterectomy is an option for women who are at a greater risk, says Cinq Mars.

• As many as 10 percent of ovarian cancer cases are hereditary—and that number may be higher, says Cinq Mars. Genetic testing can help determine if a woman is a carrier of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. Ashkenazi Jews, French Canadians, Icelandic and Dutch populations may be at a greater risk. Women with a BRCA1 gene mutation have a 55 percent chance of developing breast cancer and a 40 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer, while women with BRCA2 have a 45 percent chance of developing breast cancer and a 16 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer, according to Ovarian Cancer Canada.

Did you know?

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. On Sept. 8, join the Walk of Hope (ovariancancerwalkofhope.ca) to support research.

This article was originally titled "In this fight, knowledge is power" in the September 2013 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience–and never miss an issue!

Best Health magazine, September 2013; Image: Thinkstock

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