Not being one of the most common tumours, ovarian cancer is associated with a high mortality rate, estimated as the 8th leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide(1), this is because, explains Cristina Frutuoso, gynecologist, “it develops in silence, with non-specific clinical signs”, and its early diagnosis is difficult.
The specialist adds that “the symptoms are underestimated by women and sometimes even by doctors. Complaints are easily attributable to digestive problems”, which is why it is essential that the woman “be attentive to her body, value the abdominal signs which reappear and persist”.
According to data from Globocan, in 2020, 561 new cases were diagnosed in Portugal and 408 deaths from this tumor were recorded(2). To change this scenario, there is information that is important to remember.
“Age is a risk factor for ovarian cancer.”
Cristina Frutuoso explains that this type of tumor “appears mainly after menopause”, which does not mean that women should not always be aware of it.
“The symptoms associated with ovarian cancer are mostly nonspecific.”
In the early stages of the disease, the absence of symptoms is even common, which is a factor responsible for diagnostic delays.
Among the most common symptoms, at an early stage there is a feeling of heaviness, pelvic pain and urinary changes, and at later stages – a feeling of fullness and an increase in abdominal volume. (1)
“Ovarian cancer can be caused by BRCA mutations.”
“Having this mutation means a much higher risk of having cancer of the ovary and other organs, such as the breast, pancreas and prostate”, explains Cristina Frutuoso, who confirms that the cancer patient of the ovary is indicated for a genetic study regardless of your family history. And that in addition, there is a set of defined risk factors that guide genetic study in healthy women. “And if the woman with ovarian cancer has a BRCA mutation, she has an indication for treatment with targeted drugs, the so-called PARP inhibitors, and therefore a better response. These approaches can be used in consolidation from the first phase of treatment. Being a carrier of the mutation, she says, “allows you to take preventative, even mutilating, measures.” It is recommended that healthy women who may have a BRCA mutation seek genetic counselling.
“There are more and more treatments for ovarian cancer.”
According to the expert, “survival has increased. The specialization of centers in advanced surgery for ovarian cancer, with a concentration of cases in a few hospitals, allows for better surgical management. On the other hand, there have been great advances in medical treatment.
“There are ways to preserve the fertility of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.”
Cristina Frutuoso explains that “high-grade serous epithelial cancer, which is the most common ovarian cancer, appears more often after menopause. When she appears of childbearing age, there are exceptional situations in which the preservation of fertility is possible”. However, other rarer malignant ovarian tumors that appear at younger ages “usually allow for fertility-preserving surgeries. In cases where chemotherapy is indicated, fertility-preserving techniques, such as oocyte cryopreservation, can be used”.
To learn more about this tumor, on May 29, Sunday, the 1st saBeR but ContatA meeting will take place at the Palácio Baldaya (Sala do Desembargador), aimed at patients, caregivers and family members and completely free, with compulsory registration here . The program, starting at 2:30 p.m. (reception of participants from 2:00 p.m.), will include clarification sessions and workshops.
This is an initiative of the “SaBeR mais Conta” campaign, which since 2019 aims to enlighten the population, in particular cancer patients and their families, about the relationship between BRCA genetic mutations and certain types of cancer, including breast cancer. ovary, and which has a website for consultation and presence on social networks, where various content is regularly shared, including informative videos. In 2022, the campaign has as partners Careca Power, Evita, Europacolon, MOG (Movimento Oncológico Ginecológico), Revista Cuidar, the Portuguese Society of Human Genetics, the Portuguese Society of Gynecology, the Portuguese Society of Oncology, the Portuguese Society of Senology and AstraZeneca.
(1) Guide to BRCA mutations and cancer, News Engage, 2019 – Chapter “Pathology of ovarian cancer – Symptoms, incidence and risk factors” by Prof. Doctor Miguel Abreu
(2) Globocan consulted in May 2022, at: https://gco.iarc.fr/today/data/factsheets/populations/620-portugal-fact-sheets.pdf