cancer accounts for just 3 percent of all cancers in women, but it
causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive
system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
an estimated 20,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each
year, and about 14,000 die from the cancer.
So why is the
mortality rate so high? "The major challenge is that we cannot
detect ovarian cancer in its early stages," explains Dr. Ali
Mahdavi, a board-certified gynecologic oncologist at Aurora Health
Care. Early screenings, like how mammography is used to detect breast
cancer, don’t currently exist, so prognosis is often poor.
emerging procedure that lowers the risk of developing ovarian cancer
— one that involves removing the fallopian tubes during a routine
hysterectomy — is gaining traction and medical approval. Fallopian
tubes serve as the conduit between the uterus and the ovaries, so
their function in women who have completed their families is
essentially nonexistent. "In the past, we had thought that most
ovarian or pelvic cancers originated from the ovary, but over the last
few years and with new research, we now know that many of these
cancers originate from the fallopian tubes," says Mahdavi.
"Removing the fallopian tubes after childbearing doesn’t have
any impact on female hormone levels, and it could potentially prevent
cancer of the tube and the ovary."
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists formally addressed the
topic earlier this year, recommending that the surgeon and patient
discuss the benefits of removing the fallopian tubes during a
hysterectomy in women at risk of ovarian cancer who are not having an
oophorectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries). Mahdavi stresses that
this procedure should not be treated as a preemptive measure — that
is to say, the surgery should not take place for the sole purpose of
removing the tubes. "However, if a woman is undergoing a
hysterectomy for other conditions, consideration (to removing the
tubes) should be given," he explains.
that adding this procedure to a routine hysterectomy increases the
operating time by about 10 to 15 minutes — a relatively minimal
length of time considering a hysterectomy’s typical one- to two-hour
time frame. "The vast majority of studies have shown that
removing the fallopian tubes won’t have any adverse effects on the
surgery as far as complications," he adds, noting that the
recovery time remains the same.
methods for ovarian cancer are not yet available, maintaining a
healthy lifestyle — one that includes a balanced diet, normal body
weight and regular exercise — is recommended for those at risk of
developing ovarian cancer. Mahdavi says that persistent bloating,
pain, changes in bowel function and abdominal swelling are symptoms to
be aware of, but that undergoing "any preventative measures, such
as removing the tubes, are extremely important."
Scan Improves Accuracy for Treatment
against cancer is more than a battle of inches. Microscopic
measurements can sometimes mean the difference between life and
death. A portable CAT scan is now helping patients undergoing
brachytherapy, a cancer treatment where radiation implants,
called catheters, are inserted directly into the tissue.
have the patient in position where sources of radiation will be
loaded and to be able to have a mobile CAT scan where instead of
moving the patient to another table, which might affect where
you position the catheters just by physically dislodging them,
the patient can stay in place and the CAT scan moves over the
patient," says Dr. Michael Bassetti, assistant professor of
human oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Public
Health and Medicine. The school started using the technology
shifts can affect the quality of the CAT scan image. "We
plan our treatments based on the CAT scan that we get,"
Bassetti says. "If that’s different than reality, that
will impact the treatment."
device, which looks like an oversized washing machine, is 8 ½
feet wide by 6½ feet tall but can easily be wheeled to
portable CAT scan is particularly beneficial to patients being
treated for prostate, breast and gynecologic-related cancers.
getting more accurate pictures. Just knowing 100 percent what
your seeing on the pictures is exactly where those catheters are
placed, you’re 100 percent certain where that radiation is
going," concludes Bassetti.