Rising up against ovarian cancer

NormaLeah has designed a Bag of Hope especially for newly-diagnosed patients.


 


TERM DEFINITIONS

You were just diagnosed ... now what?

Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer is very scary and can be overwhelming. However, the most important life-saving action you can take is to consult with a gynecologic oncologist, who will give you the greatest chance at survival. They are the only specialists who are board-certified and may opt to treat it in many different ways, depending on your specific situation. Only you and your doctor can decide what’s best.

Questions to ask your doctor

An informed patient is a happy patient. There is a lot of information on the internet and it is sometimes difficult to navigate the vast online resources. NormaLeah has made this easier with a list of 135 questions to ask your doctor during any phase of the disease.

Here are some of the treatment options your doctor may recommend:

Surgery

Debulking Surgery - a surgery in which the goal is to remove as much of a tumor as possible. The aim of a debulking surgery is to leave behind no tumors larger than 1 cm, which is known as optimally debulked. Debulking may also require removal of parts of the colon, bladder, spleen, gallbladder, stomach, liver, or pancreas depending on if the cancer has metastasized, or spread, to those parts of the body.

 

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy - the use of any drug to treat any type of disease. Chemotherapy drugs target cells during different stages of the life cycle. Cancer cells replicate at a faster rate than normal cells, so chemotherapy targets these more efficiently. However, chemotherapy drugs cannot fully differentiate between cancer cells and healthy cells.

Oral - certain oral chemotherapy medications have been approved by the FDA to help treat ovarian cancer. An example would be Lynparza, which is prescribed to women with advanced ovarian cancer who have received previous treatment with 3 or more prior chemotherapy medicines or a combination of chemotherapy medicines for their cancer, and have a certain type of abnormal inherited BRCA gene.

Intravenous - this method is usually a combination of 2 or more drugs given through and IV every three to four weeks. The standard combination includes a platinum compound (cisplatin or carboplatin) and a taxane (paclitaxel or docetaxel). The typical course for chemotherapy for epithelial ovarian cancer involved 3 to 6 cycles.

Neo-Adjuvant Therapy - Neoadjuvant chemotherapy for advanced ovarian cancer was initially administered as an alternative treatment for patients not suitable for primary debulking surgery various reasons. However, recent studies suggest that neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by surgical cytoreduction is an acceptable management strategy for patients with advanced ovarian cancer. Neoadjuvant therapy can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, or other forms of biological therapy.

Intraperitoneal Therapy - chemotherapy that is targeted at the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and surrounds the abdominal organs (peritoneum). Chemotherapy can be administered into this space to treat cancers such as ovarian cancer. There are two types of this type of chemotherapy. The first can be administered as an outpatient procedure through a port in the abdomen. The second is called Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) and is administered in the operating room after a surgery to debulk tumor tissue.

Radiation Therapy - The use of high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. These include X-rays, gamma rays and other charged particles. This treatment can be delivered by a machine outside of the body (external beam radiation therapy), or from within the body (internal radiation therapy).

Maintenance Therapy - Treatment that is given to help keep cancer from coming back after it has disappeared following the initial therapy. It may include treatment with drugs, vaccines, or antibodies that kill cancer cells, and it may be given for a long time.

Other tests that can increase the effectiveness of your treatment

  • Tumor/Molecular Profiling - tests for a variety of biomarkers in the DNA of a tissue sample to help doctors better understand, diagnose, stage, and treat cancer on an individual basis. This also is a method for testing for certain enzymes, proteins, and genes to identify which therapies are likely to be most effective.
  • Genetic Testing - the process of using medical tests to search for mutations in the genes of an individual. There are many different kinds, but predictive genetic testing can be used to look for gene mutations that might put a person at risk of developing a certain type of cancer. An example would be the genetic testing done to look for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These mutations are precursors to breast and sometimes ovarian cancer. (American Cancer Society) Treatment that is given to help keep cancer from coming back after it has disappeared following the initial therapy. It may include treatment with drugs, vaccines, or antibodies that kill cancer cells, and it may be given for a long time.

Questions to ask your doctor

An informed patient is a happy patient. There is a lot of information on the internet and it is sometimes difficult to navigate the vast online resources. NormaLeah has made this easier with a list of 135 questions to ask your doctor during all phases of the disease.

 

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NormaLeah can also connect you with other women who have similar experiences to help you cope with this disease. NormaLeah partners with Smart Patients for an online support community.

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Create your own community of support. Whether its food trains, carpooling or ride-sharing or simply letting those you love know how you are doing, it’s quick and easy to set up a free, personalized website. NormaLeah partners with mylifeline.org to help you create a free, personalized website.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES