A recent survey of patients with ovarian cancer has found that many of them are uncertain of what to expect after diagnosis, and this uncertainty can be challenging. More than half of the patients (53 percent) surveyed indicated that the disease has had a severe or very severe impact upon their lives. There was also a gap between the information physicians thought they were communicating and the information patients felt they were receiving.
“Facing ovarian cancer can be extremely stressful and anxiety-provoking,” Stephanie V. Blank, M.D., professor in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and director of Women’s Health, Mount Sinai Downtown-Chelsea Center, said in a statement. “We can support survivors by better understanding their needs and perspectives, and how these evolve with time.”
The survey, called Our Way Forward, was conducted by Harris Polls on behalf of TESARO, with input from two ovarian cancer advocacy groups: National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) and Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance (OCRFA). Our Way Forward was released online, and included responses taken nationally from 254 women with ovarian cancer and 232 physicians who responded between April 2017 and May 2017.
Forty-nine percent of the patients, who were either currently in treatment or had been treated, felt that not being sure of the path forward after diagnosis was very or extremely challenging. A similar number found not knowing what to expect during treatment or after treatment to be very or extremely challenging. This feeling was significantly pronounced in those women surveyed who had experienced a recurrence of their disease. The women in this group were more likely than those who had not had a recurrence to say that they currently feel fear, anxiety and uncertainty.
Approximately 85 percent of women with advanced cancer will face recurrence after treatment, while 87 percent of the women surveyed responded that the thought of cancer returning can be overwhelming. Therefore, treating these specific patients is crucial.
The survey also found gaps in the perception of conversations among patients and health care providers. While 91 percent of physicians indicated that they discuss expectations for treatment often, or at every visit, only 40 percent of patients responded that expectations were discussed often. There were similar disparities when it came to perceptions of discussions about risk of recurrence and emotional challenges of ovarian cancer. Thirty-four percent of physicians also reported that they were unsure if/do not feel that they give patients with ovarian cancer all the information needed.
Seventy-one percent of patients reported being anxious before visits to health care professionals, and 61percent of patients said it would be either very or extremely helpful to discuss with their health care professionals how to cope with the unknown.
Mary Lynne Hedley, Ph.D., president and chief operating officer of TESARO, said, “We hope to continue to work with NOCC and OCRFA to find a way forward on behalf of this underserved community and strengthen the emotional and education support that patients and oncologists have as it relates to ovarian cancer, no matter the stage of their disease.” For more information on the Our Way Forward campaign, survey and resources, visit http://www.ourwayforward-oc.com.
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