Ovarian cancer can be a treatable disease if it is caught early. However, most diagnoses are made at a later stage. Fortunately, an improved understanding of the biology of ovarian cancer has led to better therapies. It has also given women more tools to use to help determine their risk and possibly even keep the disease from developing in the first place.
In this CURE Connections® program, host Philippa Cheetham, MD; Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD (Duke University School of Medicine); and Diane Rose (FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, Inc.), discuss important considerations in genetic testing that may help equip women and their loved ones with the information they need to take a proactive role in the prevention and management of ovarian cancer. Also joining the program to share a personal encounter with an unexpected diagnosis of the disease is Michelle Fladung, a patient with ovarian cancer, and her caregiver and partner, Greg Handerhan.
▼ Episode 1 About Ovarian Cancer
Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, an expert in gynecologic cancers, discusses the prevalence of ovarian cancer diagnoses and highlights potential risk factors to help women and their loved ones understand how the disease develops.
► Episode 2 Challenges in Ovarian Cancer Detection
After providing an overview of ovarian cancer, Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, discusses the challenges in the detection and diagnosis of ovarian cancer and explains the value in seeking the opinion of a gynecologic oncologist.
In this segment, Michelle Fladung reflects back on the symptoms that she encountered prior to her diagnosis with ovarian cancer and encourages other women to pay close attention to their bodies and seek the opinions of their healthcare professionals. Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, highlights the standard protocol for working with a newly diagnosed ovarian cancer patient within her institution.
Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, reminds viewers that there are many types and subtypes of ovarian cancer, and that treatment is individualized based on the patient’s prognosis. Michelle Fladung, and her caregiver, Greg Handerhan, explain what it was like reacting to Michelle’s diagnosis and receiving guidance on how to proceed forward with treatment.
Greg Handerhan explains what it is like, as a male, caring for Michelle Fladung’s physical and emotional well-being throughout her journey with ovarian cancer. Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, remarks on the importance of providing support to patients as well as their caregivers, and highlights ways that her institution works with those affected by a cancer diagnosis.
Diane Rose, vice president of volunteer programs at the advocacy group FORCE, discusses the importance of mutation testing in cancer (for both men and women), and talks about what it was like undergoing testing, herself, to detect the BRCA mutation (which is linked to the development of several types of cancers).
► Episode 7 Deciding Whether to Get Tested for BRCA
For viewers who have concerns about whether or not genetic testing may be appropriate, Diane Rose highlights the value behind understanding cancer risk and suggests the importance in connecting with a certified genetic counselor to undergo testing.
► Episode 8 What It Means to Carry a BRCA Mutation
Following an in-depth discussion about the role of genetic testing in ovarian cancer, Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, remarks on the variety of gene mutations that have been suggested to be linked to the development of the disease and talks about explaining the risk of cancer, as a physician, to patients who are carriers.
Patients such as Michelle Fladung, and their loved ones, will undoubtedly have many concerns about genetic testing including how to afford it. For this reason, Diane Rose, highlights the ways that her organization, FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, Inc., helps educate the public about genetic testing and provides support to those who have questions about accessing and affording a testing procedure. Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, briefly explains when hormone replacement therapy is appropriate for patients to consider.
► Episode 10 Who Should Be Tested for the BRCA Mutation?
Diane Rose and Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, consider various reasons why people are reluctant to get tested for genetic mutations linked to cancers such as ovarian cancer and provide an overview of who, specifically, are the strongest candidates for testing.
► Episode 11 Diane's Decision to Undergo Surgery to Prevent Cancer
After receiving the news that she was a carrier of the BRCA mutation, Diane Rose discusses why she chose to undergo 2 surgical procedures as a preventative measure against ovarian and breast cancer. Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, reminds viewers that all patients need to consider several variables before making decisions on how to prevent the likelihood for developing cancer if they are a carrier of a gene mutation linked to a specific condition.
► Episode 13 Deciding Among Therapies for Ovarian Cancer
Michelle Fladung discusses the side effects she experienced while undergoing therapy and the ways she worked with her gynecologic oncologist to modify her treatment regimen. Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, explains her role in helping patients navigate through challenges in treatment and when it is appropriate to switch or modify treatment.
As a result of the growing interest in ovarian cancer prevention, highlighted by Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, connecting patients and their caregivers to the information and care necessary to navigating through the ovarian cancer journey is of particular importance. Diane Rose explains how her organization, FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, Inc., helps patients connect to expert healthcare professionals to discuss individualized therapy in ovarian cancer and opportunities for clinical trial participation.
► Episode 15 Trustworthy Information on Ovarian Cancer
Angeles Alvarez Secord, MD, Diane Rose, and Michelle Fladung highlight reliable resources and various support groups that can help patients and loved ones research ovarian cancer and connect with experts that manage the physical and emotional aspects of cancer to address questions and concerns.