CHICAGO - Karen Ingalls was enjoying retirement in Florida with her husband one day. The next, she was fighting for her life. Nine years ago, doctors found a tumor in her abdomen the size of a melon.
"I had to start thinking about what I wanted to do and what God wanted me to do with whatever time I had left," explained Ingalls.
Some 1,100 miles north, researchers at the University of Chicago are working on a new treatment option; enrolling women in the WISP trial, women choosing surgical prevention.
"It's a trial meant for people who are at quite elevated risk for ovarian cancer because they've been identified to carry a mutation in a gene," said Dr. Iris Romero, an associate professor at University of Chicago.
For years, doctors have recommended young women at high risk have both their fallopian tubes and ovaries removed. It greatly lowers the risk of cancer, but causes early menopause.
Half of the women enrolled will have the traditional surgery. The other half will have two surgeries, removing just their fallopian tubes first. New research suggests that is the point where ovarian cancer actually begins.
"So, in the WISP trial, where a patient chooses to take a two-step procedure, she may delay the onset of menopause by several years until she comes back to get her ovaries out," Romero continued.
Romero said the goal is to determine if women have less sexual dysfunction and a better quality of life by staggering the surgeries. In the meantime, survivors like Ingalls continue to advocate for ovarian cancer education and support.
"I am encouraged and I think we are on the right road," Romero said.
Ingalls was treated with surgery and chemotherapy, and has had two cancer recurrences, but is currently in remission. Romero said she and other researchers ultimately want to know if removing just the fallopian tubes will be enough to protect against ovarian cancer.
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