Doctors studying new approach to help prevent ovarian cancer

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Ovarian cancer is often called the "silent killer" because symptoms can be so subtle, women may not know they have it until the cancer is in a late, hard-to-treat stage. (KABC)

Ovarian cancer is often called the "silent killer" because symptoms can be so subtle, women may not know they have it until the cancer is in a late, hard-to-treat stage.

Now, researchers across the country are studying a new approach to prevention. They're enrolling women in a new trial that will focus on stopping the disease before it strikes.

Nine years ago, Karen Ingalls was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Doctors found a tumor in her abdomen that was about the size of a melon.

"I had to start thinking about what I wanted to do and what God wanted me to do with whatever time I had left," Ingalls said.

About 1,100 miles away from Ingalls', researchers at the University of Chicago are working on a new treatment option; enrolling women in the WISP trial. That acronym stands for "Women Choosing surgIcal Prevention".

"It's a trial meant for people who are at quite elevated risk for ovarian cancer because they've been identified to carry a mutation in a gene," said University of Chicago's Dr. Iris Romero.

For years, doctors have recommended young women at high risk have both their fallopian tubes and ovaries removed. It greatly lowers the risk of cancer but causes early menopause.

Half of the women enrolled will have the traditional surgery. The other half will have two surgeries, removing just their fallopian tubes first. New research suggests that is the point where ovarian cancer actually begins.

Dr. Romero explained, "So in the WISP trial where a patient chooses to take a two-step procedure, she may delay the onset of menopause by several years until she comes back to get her ovaries out."

Dr. Romero said the goal is to determine if women have less sexual dysfunction and a better quality of life by staggering the surgeries. In the meantime, survivors like Ingalls continue to advocate for ovarian cancer education and support.

Ingalls was treated with surgery and chemo and had two recurrences but is currently in remission.

"I am encouraged, and I think we are on the right road," said Dr. Romero.

Researchers said their ultimate goal is to find out if removing just the fallopian tubes will be enough to protect against ovarian cancer.

For more information on the WISP trial, visit clinicaltrials.gov.
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healthhealthCircle of Healthovarian cancercancer
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