OVARIAN CANCER EXPERTS
Ovarian cancer – words no woman wants to hear. With no known cause, no accurate screening test, and symptoms that are often vague and misdiagnosed, diagnosis of this cancer tends to happen at a more advanced stage, making it one of the more challenging gynecologic cancers to treat. Having an experienced team led by a gynecologic oncology surgeon and a sub-specialized medical oncologist is important to ensuring the most advanced treatment options available. At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers our experts specialize in evidence-based, cutting-edge, and personalized treatment plans to create the best possible outcomes.
Clinical research trials represent some of the most advanced treatment options. Click here to learn more.
The more than 30 different types of ovarian cancer can be broken down into three main groups, epithelial carcinomas, germ cell tumors and stromal tumors, based on where the cancer begins growing. With epithelial cancers, the most common type, origination is in the lining (the epithelium) of the ovary. Germ cell tumors begin in the egg-producing cells inside the ovaries and stromal tumors, considered rare, originate in the connective tissue of the ovaries. Of the three main types, stromal tumors are generally the slowest to spread. Ovarian cancer is staged by determining the size of the original tumor, whether the cancer is present in the lymph nodes, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body, usually the pelvis, abdomen, liver, bones or brain. Individualized treatment planning is based on this staging and usually involves a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Patient cases are often reviewed at multidisciplinary tumor conferences to discuss therapeutic decisions and make sure we are providing the most complete and thorough care for our cancer patients. Imaging and laboratory tests are used throughout the treatment process to monitor progress and alert us to any needed plan modifications.
The best case scenario is when the solid tumor is confined to the ovary and the cancer can be removed with the surgical excision of the ovary. Often this can be done utilizing the latest minimally invasive surgical procedure and no additional treatment may be needed. In more advanced stages where the tumor is no longer confined to the ovary and has spread, surgery may be combined with radiation and/or chemotherapy to kill any residual cancer left behind. Chemotherapy administered directly into the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneal chemotherapy) is also an option in some patients who have had optimal surgical resection of their tumor with minimal remaining disease. We are able to manage and offer this treatment as an outpatient for many of our patients. Clinical trials and targeted therapies offer new hope to patients with advanced ovarian cancer. Targeted therapies are anticancer drugs which work on specific cancer driving mutations and slow cancer cell growth or increase cancer cell death. They are typically used in combination with other cancer treatments such as conventional chemotherapy. Clinical trials look at the value of chemotherapy before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) to shrink the tumor and allow for easier surgical removal. Chemotherapy is overseen by a medical oncologist while a radiation oncologist is responsible for administering radiation therapy and a gynecologic oncology surgeon for surgery. All of these experts have years of experience treating ovarian cancer and are highly skilled in the most advanced treatment options available.
GENETIC COUNSELING TO DETERMINE HIGH RISK INHERITANCE
Genetic counseling is an important piece of our gynecological oncology program. Ovarian cancers in particular are sometimes associated with inheritable gene changes that increase the risk for types of cancer. Most well known is the association between ovarian cancer and mutations in genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which also increase the risk for breast and prostate cancer. Finding a mutation in one of these genes may not only explain your current cancer but may guide your treatment, and allow us to tailor screening or preventative recommendations for you and for your family members. We recognize that discussing an increased risk for cancer for yourself and your family can be a difficult and intimidating process. Our genetic counselors will help you navigate the testing process and utilize the results to guide your care.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONNECTION
Our physicians collaborate with our nationally recognized supportive care services team to ensure that you and your family are connected to appropriate community resources, support groups and education classes. These licensed oncology clinical social workers are encouraging communicators and educators who provide a safe, supportive and open environment for patients to share feelings, learn coping strategies and explore ways to live as fully and joyfully as possible.
CLINICAL TRIALS DEFINING NEW TREATMENT OPTIONS
Great inroads in new drug therapies to treat ovarian cancer are being made thanks to successful clinical research. We currently have several ovarian cancer clinical trials available at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, Ariel 2 and 3, both evaluating the effectiveness of the PARP inhibitor Rucaparib in advanced stage patients. We are also participating in several clinical trials through Colorado Cancer Research Program (CCRP) including a Phase II/III trial of Trametinib, a MEK inhibitor, in patient s with low-grade serous epithelial ovarian cancers. At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers access to clinical trials is part of our comprehensive service offering. You may be eligible to participate in one of our clinical trials and get early access to an up-and-coming therapy, so make sure to ask your oncologist about whether you qualify for a trial.
COLORADO OVARIAN CANCER ALLIANCE
Among its many programs Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance (COCA) provides newly diagnosed women with complimentary comfort kits of educational and support items, free, professionally-led support groups throughout the Denver and Boulder metro area and by phone, and one of the few financial assistance programs nationwide specifically for women in treatment for ovarian cancer. Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers has been a proud supporter of COCA and Jodi’s Race for Awareness for several years.