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Women with BRCA mutations should remove ovaries

Written by Community Health Network on 2/27/2014 7:00:00 PM

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology studied nearly 5,800 women with specific genetic mutations called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Researchers found that women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations who proactively had their ovaries removed reduced their risk of ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer by 80 percent, and their overall risk of death by 77 percent.

BRCA stands for breast cancer susceptibility genes, a class of genes that are tumor suppressors. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

According to the study, women with BRCA1 mutations should have preventive ovarian surgery (known as prophylactic oophorectomy) by age 35, because waiting past that age is shown to increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

In contrast, the study suggests that women with BRCA2 mutations can delay surgery until their 40s, as their risk of ovarian cancer is not as high.

Dr. Wafic ElMasri, ovarian cancer specialist"Patients with BRCA mutations are at high risk of developing ovarian cancer, which is usually diagnosed at advanced stages and is lethal in the majority of cases," said Dr. Wafic ElMasri, OB/GYN and gynecological oncologist at Community Health Network.

"We do not have reliable screening tests that detect ovarian cancer at early stages," said ElMasri. "BRCA mutation carriers should undergo risk-reducing removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries between ages 35 and 40, or when childbearing is complete." 

How do I know if I have a BRCA gene mutation?

To determine if you carry the hereditary gene, know your family history. If there is a first or second degree connection to breast or ovarian cancer in the family, your risk for being diagnosed with cancer is increased. You can then have a genetic test performed to determine if you do, in fact, have the gene mutation.

Where can I get genetic testing?

Community Health Network provides genetic testing and counseling for women who believe that they are at risk for developing cancer. To learn more, or to schedule a test, call 317-621-8988.


Former Olympian gives birth after cancer

Written by Community Health Network on 2/17/2014 7:15:00 PM

Shannon Miller, former Olympic gymnast, is an ovarian cancer survivorThis month we’re recalling former U.S. Olympians who were challenged by cancer. One such Olympian is Shannon Miller, who competed as a gymnast in two Summer Games: Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996. She was one of the “Magnificent Seven” and is the most decorated American gymnast in history.

Miller was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in February of 2011 after physicians discovered a cyst on her ovary during a routine gynecological exam. Miller underwent surgery to remove her left ovary and had nine weeks of chemotherapy treatment.

Last June, Miller and her husband welcomed a healthy baby girl, named Sterling. This achievement rivals her Olympic performance, especially because Miller is a cancer survivor.

One concern facing women with ovarian cancer is infertility post-treatment. While Miller already had a son, Rocco, she had considered having other children. In a People magazine interview she said, “Instead of calling my parents to tell them they had another grandchild on the way, I was calling to tell them I may have cancer. My world stopped.”

Now, Miller recognizes motherhood as her biggest achievement. “I've been blessed to have the opportunity to do some amazing things in my life, but being a mom is second to none,” she said.

Fertility and cancer

For many women with ovarian cancer, fertility may not be possible due to treatment. In cases like Miller’s, the cancer was only in one ovary, still allowing her to reproduce. However, if you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and fertility is an important issue, there are options for preserving fertility.

Cancer prevention

In 2013, 450 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Age, obesity, reproductive history, birth control, gynecological surgery, fertility drugs and family history can all be risk factors for ovarian cancer. Symptoms often include discomfort in the lower abdomen, weight loss, abnormal bowel movement or urination, vaginal bleeding, or shortness of breath. But knowing the risk factors and symptoms can help prevent ovarian cancer. If you think you may be at risk or are experiencing any of the symptoms above, contact your OB/GYN.

Ask an expert

For more information early detection and treatment of female cancers call 800-777-7775 or ask Dr. Wafic ElMasri, gynecologic cancer expert


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