Ask the Expert: Questions and Answers about Ovarian Cancer

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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently partnered with CancerConnect and Ursula Matulonis, MD, to answer questions about ovarian cancer. Experts in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers offer the latest research and treatment for this type of cancer. Watch one patient’s story.

Q: Is taking curcumin recommended to prevent ovarian cancer from returning? Do you have any other suggestions for preventing recurrence?

A: Curcumin given to ovarian cancer cells growing in culture has been successful, but, unfortunately, one cannot ingest the amount of curcumin orally that could kill ovarian cancer cells. There are no medications thus far that have been shown to prevent recurrence, but several are being tested in clinical trials, including PARP inhibitors and ipilimumab, which is an immunotherapy.

Ursula Matulonis and colleagues led a study that identified three subtypes of serous ovarian cancer.

Q: I had Stage III ovarian cancer and finished treatment about six months ago. I am so scared about a recurrence. What should I be looking for? Are there symptoms, or would I just have an elevated CA?

A: Often the CA-125 is able to pick up recurrence in the absence of symptoms. If symptoms do appear, they would include ones that you may have experienced at diagnosis. These include abdominal bloating, shortness of breath, changes in bowel habits (such as diarrhea and/or constipation), and pelvic or abdominal pain.

Q: If I have had ovarian cancer, is there any genetic screening to determine whether my two daughters (ages 42 and 35) have a hereditary cancer risk?

A: It depends on your age and your family history. If your ovarian cancer is “high-grade serous,” it can be transmitted genetically from one generation to generation to the next. I would advise consulting a genetics counselor to help assess the risk for your daughters.

Q: How successful have PARP inhibitors been when used with patients with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations? What is the future of PARP inhibitors for use in treating ovarian cancer?

A: PARP inhibitors have definitely shown activity in recurrent ovarian cancer, particularly in patients with a germline BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, as well as those who do not harbor a mutation but have a high-grade serous histology.

Read more questions and answers about ovarian, uterine, and cervical cancers. Please note that this Ask the Expert Q & A is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Speak to your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding your health.

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