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ACCC Recognizes World Ovarian Cancer Day

May 8, 2024
ACCCBuzz Ovarian Cancer Day

Every year, on May 8th, the world comes together to recognize World Ovarian Cancer Day. Established in 2013, the event raises awareness for a disease that is the second most common gynecologic cancer in the United States. An estimated 19,680 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2024 and approximately 12,740 women will die from the disease. These figures highlight the fact that ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

Ovarian cancer predominantly occurs in elderly women, with approximately half of those diagnosed at 63 years of age or older. Recent decades have seen a gradual decrease in the diagnosis of the disease. The rate of occurrence decreased by approximately 1% to 2% annually between 1990 and the mid-2010s, followed by a more significant decline of nearly 3% per year from 2015 to 2019. According to the American Cancer Society, this is likely due to an increase in the use of oral contraceptives and decreased use of menopausal hormone therapy. 

Screening + Early Detection

As with many cancers, improved screening holds the key to early detection of ovarian cancer. When diagnosed and treated at an early stage, the 5-year survival rate of the disease is 94%. Unfortunately, only about 20% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at this point. This is likely due to vague symptoms experienced during early ovarian cancer—bloating, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea—which are common to a host of less serious illnesses and can cause patients to overlook them. That was the case for Angela Hernandez, an employee of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who was 32 years old when she was diagnosed with a stage III germ cell tumor (a rare type of ovarian cancer). “I attributed my bloating to a strong course of antibiotics I’d just finished,” she said. “My gynecologist thought the same thing—until she discovered a hard spot when she pressed down on my belly during a well-woman exam.”

Hernandez had the privilege of being employed at a comprehensive cancer center that had the resources to help her navigate her diagnosis and treatment. “As an MD Anderson employee myself, I’ve witnessed the care and expertise of our doctors and staff firsthand,” she said. “So, when I was diagnosed in August 2018, deciding where to go for my treatment really was a no-brainer.” For patients who are not privy to the same opportunity, it is important that organizations develop the tools to help patients and their providers make the appropriate care decisions. Understanding this, in 2019, the Association of Cancer Care Centers (ACCC) launched a multiphase, stakeholder-driven initiative to improve care for patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the US.

Key takeaways included:

  • Top priorities for quality improvement (QI) include genetic testing and counseling, clinical trial enrollment, and coordinated care across the multidisciplinary care team.
  • A focused and structured QI approach, where consensus is built around a problem and solution, can address a specific quality issue in a relatively short time.
  • Multiple stakeholders can contribute to QI solutions with a team approach and clear communication around quality gaps.

ACCC is partnered with cancer programs and practices to support care coordination and communication within the multidisciplinary cancer care team by implementing practice improvement plans that address identified barriers and challenges. Addressing these issues will be a significant step toward improving care for patients with ovarian cancer—from diagnosis through survivorship.

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