5 Fast Facts: Ovarian Cancer

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, a woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer during their lifetime is about 1 in 78¹. In 2021 alone, it’s estimated that over 21,000 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

As the month comes to a close, we invite you to take a few moments to educate yourself, learn about the early signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer as well as how to be proactive.

  1. Signs and Symptoms
    • Abnormal vaginal bleeding (Especially if you’re past menopause) 
    • Pain or pressure in the pelvic area 
    • Abdominal or back pain 
    • Bloating, feeling full too quickly, or difficulty eating 
    • A change in bathroom frequency, such as the urgent need to urinate and/or constipation.

2. Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer Include: 

    • Being middle-aged or older
    • Genetics: If someone in your immediate has had ovarian cancer 
    • Breast, colon, or uterine cancer diagnosis
    • Endometriosis (Tissues that normally line your uterus grow on the outside)

3. Recent Findings 

Recent studies have found that ovarian cancer starts in cells at the tail ends of the fallopian tubesnot necessarily in the ovary itself ² – this new information may open more research studies looking at preventing and screening for this type of cancer.

4. Risk Reduction 

While there is no definite way to prevent ovarian cancer, below are some findings associated with lower risk. 

    • Having given birth and breastfeeding 
    • Taking oral contraceptives for 5 years or more 
    • Having had a tubal ligation (getting your tubes tied), both ovaries removed, or a hysterectomy (an operation in which the uterus, and sometimes the cervix, is removed)

5. Screening & Prevention

The Pap test only screens for cervical cancer and HPV, not ovarian cancer. Since there is not a specific screening test for gynecological cancers apart from cervical cancer, it is important to recognize the warning signs. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with ovarian cancer. 

For more information and resources on ovarian cancer, visit the American Cancer Society’s website. 

References 

  1. Key Statistics for Ovarian Cancer, American Cancer Society
  2. Ovarian Cancer Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention, American Cancer Society
  3. Ovarian Cancer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 

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Dr. Merrill Shum Named Top Doctor 2021

The Oncology Institute (TOI) is proud to announce that Dr. Merrill Shum was recently named Top Doctor 2021 by California Magazine and 2021 Super Doctor in the category of Hematology-Oncology by Los Angeles Magazine. These two prestigious awards come as a well-deserved recognition for his compassion and work ethic as an oncologist. 

Dr. Shum strives to bridge the gap of patient understanding through communication and education. His strong interest in clinical trials allows him to integrate cutting-edge therapies with state-of-the-art care while improving quality of life for his patients. 

“While we maintain our integrity through honesty, we must remain compassionate,” said Dr. Shum when asked about his patient philosophy. “Our dedication and commitment to achieve the highest quality of care is aimed at improving quality of life and ultimately improving survival rates. It is our responsibility to help our patients and their families navigate through their cancer journey to minimize anxiety through this difficult period.” 

In addition to the Top Doctor & Super Doctor Awards, Dr. Shum was recently presented with the Physicians Achievement Award from the Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (PIH) where he does hospital rounds. Dr. Shum continues his groundbreaking research in the field of oncology and as a result, has submitted an abstract, which denotes his 24th publication, to the American Society of Hematology – set to be published in December 2021. 

To learn more about Dr. Merrill Shum, his work and to book an appointment, click here. 

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COVID-19 Booster Shots for Cancer Patients: Stay Informed & Protected

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently approved the administration of a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for certain immunocompromised individuals. In this article, you’ll find answers to some common questions regarding booster vaccines, eligibility, as well as how to stay protected. 

Who is eligible for a booster vaccine? 
At this time, the CDC is recommending that people who are moderate to severely immunocompromised receive an additional dose.  

The CDC outlines this as people who have: 

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood 
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system 
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system 
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome) 
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection 
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response 

Those who are immunocompromised and have received both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna (mRNA) vaccines are eligible. If you are not currently receiving active treatment for cancer, at this time you are not eligible to receive a third dose. Additionally, boosters have not yet been cleared for other fully vaccinated individuals or for recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.   
 

Why should I get a booster? 
Cancer patients and others who are immunocompromised sometimes do not build enough protection with an initial vaccine dose. A third dose may boost immunity against COVID-19. The CDC is still recommending that those who are immunocompromised, although fully vaccinated, take appropriate precautions including wearing a mask, social distancing and other proactive measures. 

 
When should I get the booster? 
The CDC recommends for people to wait at least 28 days after the completion of the initial 2-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series. 

 
Which vaccine is recommended for the booster vaccine? 
It is recommended that the third dose be the same type of vaccine as the first two – For example, if you received the Pfizer vaccine for the first two doses, it is recommended to go with Pfizer for the third. However, a different mRNA vaccine is also acceptable. 

Those who are eligible and considering a booster shot should speak with their healthcare provider or oncologist at TOI about their condition(s) and to determine whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them. 

For more information regarding COVID-19, the COVID-19 Vaccine and booster shot – visit the CDC’s website. 

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Coping With Grief

Throughout life’s many stages, grief manifests itself in different ways. It has no timeline and is not linear. For patients and their families facing a cancer diagnosis, grief can hit at any point and is sometimes unexpected. While a diagnosis may feel isolating and overwhelming, you don’t have to grieve alone.

Grief organizations and support groups are great resources that can provide a safe space to help cope. They offer an opportunity to connect with others who are facing similar circumstances. Sharing your experience with others allows for peace of mind, validation, and recovery.

Awareness about grief and its impact on mental and emotional health is so important. When we have the support we need to properly process these heavy sentiments, we can work towards a path to healing.

Everyone’s journey with grief is different. If you are experiencing long-lasting or intense grief that interferes with your daily activities, please seek professional counseling or talk to your primary care physician.

Below are a few organizations in our community that provide valuable resources to patients, caregivers, and families.

 

Organizations 

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