Dorsey Griffith

Almost one-third of California women with ovarian cancer survive at least 10 years after diagnosis. The findings upend the notion that women diagnosed with cancer of the ovary always face a poor chance of survival. In fact, while the study confirmed earlier findings on characteristics associated with ovarian cancer survival—younger age, earlier stage, and lower grade tumors at diagnosis—it also identified a surprising number of long-term survivors who didn’t meet those criteria. “The perception that almost all women will die of this disease is not correct,” says Rosemary Cress, an epidemiologist and associate adjunct professor at University of California, Davis and lead author of a new paper published online in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology . “This information will be helpful to physicians who first diagnose these patients and the obstetricians/gynecologists who take care of them after they receive treatment from specialists.” LONG-TERM SURVIVORS For the study, researchers used the California Cancer Registry to analyze data reported on all California residents diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer between 1994 and 2001. Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common type of ovarian cancer, occurring in nine out of 10 cases. Of the 11,541 patients in the registry database, 3,582 (31 percent) survived more than 10 years. This was the first time that research has looked at 10-year trajectories for patients; most survival studies have looked only at 5-year survival or less. As expected, the study shows that the majority of the long-term survivors were younger, had early-stage disease when they were diagnosed, and their tumors were of a lower-risk tissue type. But what struck the researchers was that of the 3,582 long-term survivors, 954 of them had been considered to be at high risk of dying from their disease, either because of their tumor stage, grade, or older age at diagnosis. ONE...