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Is There a Cure for Ovarian Cancer?

Surgery to remove ovarian cancer may provide patients with better survival rates.
Women with ovarian cancer have a much better chance of survival if the cancer is detected early.
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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2014
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There is no outright cure for ovarian cancer but treatment options exist that can lead to complete or partial remission with such low odds of recurrence that the disease is cured in a practical sense. Some medical professionals may use the word “cure” when they really mean “remission,” “survival rate” or “cure rate.” Once a patient’s cancer is in remission, there may be no detectible signs or symptoms of the disease but the possibility of a recurrence at some point in the future always exists. Many medical professionals approach ovarian cancer as though it were a manageable chronic disease.

The practical goal of ovarian cancer treatment is typically remission because a recurrence is always possible even if the patient is apparently cured. If the remission is complete, there will be no detectable cancer cells and no signs or symptoms or the disease. Cancer cells may still be present, but are undetectable by current technologies; a possibility that makes many medical providers reluctant to assert that there is a cure for ovarian cancer.

A patient in partial remission may experience only mild symptoms, if any. However, there may be a small amount of detectable cancer cells. Generally, the longer the disease is in remission, the greater chance that the cancer has actually been removed.

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The survival or cure rate varies widely between types of cancer. Most medical professionals will speak in terms of a five-year, ten-year, or 20-year survival rate or cure for ovarian cancer. The rate refers to the percentage of patients who are alive five, ten or 20 years after their diagnosis. This rate is affected by the stage of cancer, response to treatment, and the patient’s overall health among other factors. Such statistics are predictive but not determinative; each patient’s case is unique.

Remission or a cure for ovarian cancer is more likely if the disease is detected in its earliest stages. Routine screening such as a pelvic examination is generally performed during a woman’s annual physical checkup with her medical provider. Abnormal results may require additional testing like an ultrasound, surgery to remove tissue samples for testing and a CA 125 blood test. If cancer is detected, it will be given a stage from I to IV based on how far the disease has spread beyond the ovaries.

The typical treatment plan for ovarian cancer begins with surgery that removes both ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, nearby lymph nodes and the omentum. The surgery is often followed by chemotherapy. Research into more effective treatments, detection techniques and a possible cure for ovarian cancer are ongoing.

When a doctor discusses a patient’s prognosis, he or she may use the term “cure” or “remission,” “survival rate,” or “cure rate.” A doctor should be specific with regard to whether the remission is partial or complete and whether the cure or survival rate is five, ten, or 20 years. Such details can help a patient determine the likelihood of recurrence within his or her lifetime.

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