Finding a New Normal After Ovarian Cancer
For anyone who has had cancer, the question of when they will ever feel normal again inevitably plagues them. For some, the process is not too long. For others, "normal" will never again be attained, instead replaced with a new normal. In an attempt to give women some peace of mind about when and how they might feel normal after ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment, researchers conducted the Ovarian Cancer Prognosis and Lifestyle study.
Researchers explained the motivation behind their work, "The OPAL Study addresses the question of whether lifestyle choices during or after treatment could positively impact quality of life and, ultimately, survival." In turn, these lifestyle choices may help women to feel normal, or create a new normal that they are content with.
To conduct the study, the researchers recruited Australian women who had been diagnosed with primary ovarian cancer between the years of 2012 and 2015. From there, they would be able to look into their individual lifestyles taking place after the diagnosis.
To gather data, the participants in the study would respond to questionnaires at a baseline, then at three, six, nine, 12, 24, 36, and 48 months after their initial diagnosis.
So, what did the researchers want to learn about specifically? They started out learning the patients' sociodemographic, reproductive and hormonal information, medical and family history, and lifestyle information such as alcohol or drug use, smoking habits, diet, and levels of activity. To follow up in the later months, they would be asked of their current lifestyle, which medications they were using, and which therapies they had been a part of. The researchers would then produce a range of patient-reported outcomes by utilizing the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Insomnia Severity Index, and FACT instruments for ovarian cancer, neurotoxicity and fatigue.
To supplement their findings, most of the patients provided blood samples either at the point of recruitment or a year into the study.
The researchers' findings were presented at the 2018 Cancer Survivorship Symposium. They offered three abstracts that discussed their results regarding well-being upon the finish of treatment, quality of life and survival, as well as "the hidden burden of anxiety and depression associated with an ovarian cancer diagnosis."
Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is often only found after it has managed to progress to more advanced stages, which is why the long-term survival rate is considered relatively low. The researchers explain, "five-year survival after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer is less than 45 percent, and women often ask what they can do, beyond following the recommended treatment, to improve their chance of survival."
They found that around 72 percent of the 958 women who were followed had high-grade serous ovarian cancer, and 72 percent were already in an advanced stage of the disease. The study has not been completed yet, but they are around the 36 month time mark, and responses have been submitted by between 85 and 95 percent of the active participants.
At six months, 734 responses were received, 751 at 12 months, 636 at 24 months, 434 at 36 months, and 225 at 48 months. The total number of women who had experienced progression or recurrence was 558 and 332 died, which is around 35 percent. Therefore, there were about 300 active participants remaining in the study.
Read on to learn more about normalcy after ovarian cancer.