We are in the golden age of medical progress -- we’ve made great strides in the last few decades. One example is the use of minimally invasive laparoscopic or robotic surgery for endometrial cancer, which uses tiny incisions and enables the patient leave the hospital the next day. I routinely perform this procedure, as do other oncologists at Duke.
Another advance is the discovery that women who carry mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. Our team at Duke was part of the international consortium that was involved in the discovery of these genes.
Patients with these mutated genes make up 10 percent of ovarian cancer cases, so we can save the lives of many women each year if every woman who has a family history of ovarian cancer receives a genetic risk assessment. Women who find they have an elevated risk can decide whether or not to have their fallopian tubes and ovaries removed before cancer develops.
Also, since the FDA approved the vaccine that prevents human papillomavirus (HPV) infection -- which can cause cervical cancer -- the vaccine has become widely used. Between the vaccine, the use of Pap smear, and HPV screening, hopefully cervical cancer can largely be eradicated in the coming decades.