Shady Al Khayat, Oncology Consultant at King Abdul Aziz University Hospital in Jeddah, reiterated the importance of heightening awareness among women about taking care of their health and seeking medical advice if they have any recurring symptoms that may be related to serious diseases which are difficult to diagnose during their early stages such as ovarian cancer, which constitutes about 4% of all cancer cases among women worldwide. He said that physicians are still unable to find the prime cause of such a disease. However, there are some indicators for a greater possibility of cancer development such as family disease history, genetic mutation, unhealthy habits and even obesity.
During a workshop organized in February 2017 by AstraZeneca titled “Ovarian Cancer: Status Quo and Future Solutions,” Dr. Shady said that ovarian cancer is the most deadly disease. It causes the death of more than 150,000 persons annually worldwide. The reason behind such high rate of deaths is the difficulty to detect the disease before development. It is widely believed that cancer cells develop into the ovary, which is not correct. They develop into the Fallopian tube as an open structure where cancer cells can implant themselves around the abdomen and pelvis and spread thereafter to the ovary. Due to this situation, it is really difficult to detect this type of cancer at an early stage, especially because the similarity of cancer symptoms to that of other usual symptoms such as weekly recurrent flatulence.
Upon developing ovarian cancer, the patient undergoes a clinical examination to identify how the disease spreads. Dr. Shady Al Khayat pointed out that the medical community classifies ovarian cancer into 4 stages. During the first stage, the disease is limited into one ovary. Then it spreads into the pelvis and uterus, which is the third stage: the most common stage among patients. When it spreads into the abdomen, it is called the fourth stage.
About the available options of treatments for a patient with an advanced stage of ovarian cancer, Dr. Shady said it is advisable to have a surgery if the patient is already diagnosed with an advanced stage of ovarian cancer. This option helps increase the survivability period of women with this disease. However, with the advancement of medicine, now we have new mechanisms of treatment and increasing survivability chances. Targeted therapy is one of these mechanisms and it provides a window of hope for women with this disease.
Dr. Shady said that women with a family history of cancer genetic mutation should undergo BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests at an early stage to know about their ovarian cancer development chances, adding that although it is said that smoking and eating habits have some relation with ovarian cancer, there are no clear relationship between such habits and the disease, stressing that we must preserve our health to help our bodies resist the disease if we developed it. “We, as physicians, call the ovarian cancer “the silent disease” because physicians find it difficult to detect it at early stages and that is why we must raise awareness among women about taking care of their health and seeking medical advice if they have any symptoms possibly related to this deadly disease,” he said.
On the other hand, Dr. Ismael Shehada, Country President for AstraZeneca Saudi Arabia emphasizes the importance of fostering awareness among women to help reduce the spread of ovarian cancer cases especially among those genetically vulnerable women. “We are keen to meet with physicians and organize workshops with medical academic circles in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to brief them about the latest developments in modern medical research and treatment drugs, which will help the patient control the disease development,” Dr. Ismael added.