Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S. When ovarian cancer first develops, it might not cause noticeable symptoms. It often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen.
"Unfortunately, ovarian cancer often presents with very common symptoms, and these common symptoms are things that everybody will complain about at some point," explains Dr. John Weroha, a Mayo Clinic medical oncologist. "For example, constipation, bloating, maybe a little weight gain. These are very common symptoms, and oftentimes, people just kind of blow it off as being normal. So, that's how it hides and grows."
Once ovarian cancer is detected, treatment depends on the stage when the disease is diagnosed. Stage 1 — the lowest stage — indicates that the cancer is confined to the ovaries. At this stage, a cure may be achieved with surgery alone. By stage 4, the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body. At this point, treatment is more complex, often involving drug therapies and potentially immunotherapy, which uses the immune system to attack cancer cells.
Dr. Weroha encourages patients to explore all their treatment options, including clinical trials.
"I think one of the biggest misconceptions that I see with patients is that clinical trials are supposed to be a last resort, and that is absolutely not true," says Dr. Weroha. "What we do at Mayo, and really everywhere else, is we try to bring clinical trials to our patients — not because we want to test whether or not this brand-new drug works, but we already believe the drug works. We think it's going to work, and we want to give that to our patients because they can't get it any other way, except through a clinical trial."
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Weroha discusses the latest treatments for ovarian cancer.
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