Published: June 26, 2008
Updated: Apr. 27, 2010
Andrew Berchuck, MD, director of the Duke Division of Gynecologic Oncology, talks about the latest research in ovarian and other cancers.
It’s estimated that 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer and 39,000 new cases of uterine cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. Cervical cancer rates have declined considerably over the years thanks to Pap test screenings, and the new HPV vaccine promises further reduction in cervical cancer incidence.
It is a very exciting time in cancer research. We’re learning new things about the molecular origins of the disease that will lead to better prevention and treatment. For example, it’s been shown that about 15 percent of ovarian cancers occur in women who inherit mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. If testing shows that a woman carries the mutation she may then choose to have her ovaries removed to prevent cancer, which is rarely detected early.
That’s right. The chance to intervene before a woman develops cancer is the holy grail of oncology that we strive for!
Most patients with gynecologic cancers undergo surgery as part of their treatment. Today we can perform most cancer surgeries with minimally invasive laparoscopic or robotic techniques that use tiny incisions. Recovery times are remarkably shorter and cosmetic results are superior. Being able to offer surgical approaches that make the experience of having a gynecologic cancer more bearable for women has been incredibly gratifying.