The Next Level of Ovarian Cancer Care
At the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), women with ovarian cancer now have access to “wrap-around” services. The service goal is to “make their lives easier.” It’s a bundled approach that not only offers oncology treatment, but also addresses the women’s “wellness needs.”
Each patient in the program is given her own care coordinator to help guide her through the system and to acquaint her with the specialized services the program offers.
The program is noteworthy not only in that it accepts women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but also those who are in remission or at risk for the disease.
Personalized services are delivered during treatment in order to support the women’s return to normal life post-treatment, thus functioning as a safety net. In the early stages, ovarian cancer often goes undiagnosed due to its vague symptoms. The mass is initially found during a routine pelvic exam. If the woman has a family history of ovarian cancer, the risk of developing it is very high. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the mutated genes that increase this potential. They can up the risk for other types of cancer as well, so genetic testing is encouraged to check for this gene mutation. Treatment options have better outcomes if ovarian cancer is diagnosed early. Staging the cancer progression also plays a large part in determining the most effective interventions.
Generally, treatment includes radiation, chemo, surgery, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. All of these are very hard on the boy, not even taking into account the possible side effects.
A registered dietician is included in the UAB team in order to help patients with any digestive issues. The dietician works with the patient to address their protein and caloric needs. One of the main goals during treatment is to avoid malnutrition. Licensed counselors, relaxation therapy, pastoral care, pet therapy, and guided imagery services are also provided by the UAB team to deal with issues such as social isolation and emotional drain that occurs during treatment. A person’s reproductive processes may be affected by chemotherapy drugs, so a fertility preservation program is also offered:
- IVF and embryo freezing:This is the most established, successful fertility program. However, it delays the cancer treatment, is expensive, and requires sperm availability and time.
- Ovarian cryopreservation:In this treatment, ovarian tissue is retrieved and then frozen and stored for later use. Those who cannot participate in hormonal treatments and cannot undergo IVF cycle can try this investigational option.
- Cryopreservation of unfertilized oocytes:This technique does not require sperm, but rather needs ovarian stimulation. The unfertilized eggs are retrieved and frozen with the hope of later success through IVF.
The UAB team participates with a nonprofit organization called Fertile Hope, which provides reproductive information as well as hope and support to cancer survivors.
UAB is one of the first tissue banks that is joined with the oncology consortium. The consortium team is preparing to answer questions about its research based on novel ways to preserve and develop eggs after freezing and the success rate with fertility preservation.
The UAB includes many support groups that deal with financial counseling and hospital and medical assistance. The services are supported by the caregiver to mentor and podcast online information. The UAB health system is one of the largest academic medical centers in the United States. This program is a very compassionate benchmark for other cancer care programs to immaculate.