DURHAM, N.C. — It may surprise a lot of women that there are no definitive tests to detect
, but advances in research and treatment do hold promise for the future.
Laura Navarro is a part-time nurse and a full-time mom who home schools her children. Her husband, Rob, also works two jobs. Their children have busy schedules, including competitive figure skating.
Last October, they had to find time for ovarian cancer.
"Our world was turned upside down," Rob Navarro said.
Laura Navarro knew she had a family history of the disease, so she took blood and ultrasound tests to detect it.
"Unfortunately, there isn't any test that really truly detects ovarian cancer," she said.
"If we had a screening test that would allow us to do a better job of early detection, then our treatment results would be much better," said Dr. Andrew Berchuck of Duke University's GYN Oncology Program.
Berchuck says once painful symptoms appear, the cancer is usually advanced and spreading.
Navarro joined a clinical trial at Duke to test a wide array of chemotherapy drugs after Berchuck removed her ovaries.
"The only way you're going to be able to find out if new drugs work is you have to try them," Navarro said.
Doctors can now spot the genetic mutations that put women at higher risk. They are also looking into biological therapies that may stop the cancer from spreading.
"I think our great hope right now is that these biological sorts of therapies will take us from the one-yard line, over the goal line, where we're affecting 100 percent cures for most of our patients," Berchuck said.
Navarro finished her treatments last April, but because of the aggressive nature of the cancer, she cannot be sure it will not appear somewhere else.
"I feel good and I'm healthy and I appreciate that I feel good," she said.
Generally, ovarian cancer develops in women in their 60s. For women with the genetic markers for the disease, it can appear in their 40s.
Those women could decide to have their ovaries removed as a preventive measure.
Duke is holding an ovarian cancer awareness walk on Saturday, Sept. 25.
Click here for details.