Study: Most ovarian cancer cases not getting proper attention

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April 22, 2013, 9:55 am
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(NECN/NBC: Doreen Gentzler) -  Jennifer McGihon was in the prime of her life when she was forced to get a full hysterectomy. Doctors told her that surgery, along with aggressive chemotherapy was the best treatment for a devastating diagnosis, stage 3 ovarian cancer.

"You have to look out for number one and you have to be your own advocate," said McGilhon

That's why the Alexandria woman -now 36 -sought a second and third opinion, making sure she was getting the best treatment for her type of cancer.

But according to a new study, nearly three quarters of women with ovarian cancer aren't getting cutting-edge care - and that's leading to more recurrences and death.

"That just demonstrates that we have a long way to go in this country that even with all of our technology and our advances to really provide the best care to women with this disease," said Dr. John Elkas

Elkas is a gynecologic oncologist. That means he specializes in treating women with gynecologic cancers including ovarian and cervical.

He says one reason why women may not be getting the best care is because they're not being treated by specialists and instead they're seeing general surgeons or oncologists.

"Not every doctor sees ovarian cancer regularly, so lumping it together with colon cancer or pancreatic cancer is wrong," said Elkas.

That’s because most ovarian cancer is diagnosed at advanced stages and need specialized treatment -Including extensive surgery called debulking, which removes all traces of the disease in the abdomen.

A general surgeon not trained in debulking could miss some tumor cells, and that could lead to recurrence later on.

Elkas says that's why women need to educate themselves after a cancer diagnosis. Seek out specialists and don't be afraid to get more than one opinion.

McGihon says she may not be alive right now if she didn't find a specialty doctor.

"We would never get heart surgery without seeing a heart specialist, so why would it be that we would accept something less than having a specialist do our care for a gynecoligic surgery," said McGilhon.

Tags: women, doctor, Ovarian cancer, specialists
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