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New Hope for Ovarian Cancer Patients.

Doctors are using dramatic new therapies to fight ovarian cancer, extending the lives of women who five or ten years ago almost certainly would have died of the disease. Over the past two years, the arsenal against ovarian cancer has increased from two drugs to about ten cancer-killing agents.

Nonetheless, survival rates for the last several decades are only about 25 percent for those with advanced disease. Most ovarian cancer is found only after it has spread, and over half of those diagnosed are dead in five years.

Deaths from cervical cancer have plunged by 50 percent since 1971, whereas ovarian cancer deaths have risen by 50 percent--in part because the female population has increased, but also because there are still no routine screening tests (such as the Pap smear for cervical cancer).

Women at risk for developing ovarian cancer are those with a family history of the disease, those who have used fertility drugs, those who had their first baby after age 30, and any woman over age 65. (Oddly, the use of oral contraceptives appears to reduce the risk for ovarian cancer.)

Symptoms to be aware of are a prolonged swelling of the abdomen; long-term digestive problems including gas, loss of appetite, bloating, stomach pain, or indigestion; pelvic pressure that feels as though one has to urinate or defecate all the time; or pelvic pain and unusual bleeding. But for those who are diagnosed early, before the disease spreads beyond the ovaries, ovarian cancer is 90 percent curable--which is why it is so important for women to have a checkup every year.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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