Marathon Runner Michelle’s Family History Of Ovarian Cancer Put Her At A Greater Risk
Michelle B., had suffered a great loss, and almost immediately after thought she was going to have to face one more.
“My mother passed away from ovarian cancer,” said Michelle. “Four months after my mom’s death, my sister was also diagnosed with ovarian cancer.”
Her sister’s cancer was caught early. “After rounds of chemo, she survived, and by the grace of God, it hasn’t returned.”
Michelle was a high risk for developing ovarian cancer. Women with mothers and sisters who have ovarian cancer are higher risks for developing the disease. About 20 to 25 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have a hereditary tendency to develop the disease. The most significant risk factor is an inherited genetic mutation in one of two genes: breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) or breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). These genes are responsible for about 10 to 15 percent of all ovarian cancers.
“Back in 2007 when I had the surgery, BRCA wasn’t covered by your insurance, and it was a concern that it would surface in job searches for having a pre-existing condition. But even without the genetic test, I knew my risks were very high.”
Michelle knew she needed to make some hard choices about her own health and consulted Dr. Paul MacKoul, MD. It was important to her to choose a top hysterectomy surgeon, who also specialized in oncology.
“I had met Dr. MacKoul through my mom. He wasn’t her doctor, but he was at the hospital when she was there. When I went to consult with Dr. MacKoul, he was extremely reassuring, very low-key, and he treated the laparoscopic hysterectomy as a life-saving tool, where I would persevere and not shrivel up into a bad menopause. He was correct. With a proper diet and exercise, there is no need to be afraid.”
“Dr. MacKoul scheduled my surgery quickly, was available to speak at any time, and most of all, was very kind in his approach to my surgery. He convinced me that this surgery was the right thing to do, and he would recommend it if it was the same situation for a loved one.”
Minimally Invasive Hysterectomy Patient: Back To Normal Activity In Two Days
Michelle chose to have a prophylactic (preventative) hysterectomy that removed her uterus, cervix, ovaries and her fallopian tubes. Dr. MacKoul performed a minimally invasive hysterectomy, and Michelle was back to normal activity in a couple of days.
“I had the surgery and two days later I was up doing laundry! I took a pain pill for the hell of it, but I really didn’t need it. It was the easiest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
“I had been going every 6 months for sonograms. Now it’s not the heart in my throat every time I go to get a sonogram, wondering if that pain in my side, is it a tumor or is it just gas pain.”
Genetic Testing For Ovarian Cancer
In the United States, genetic tests are performed by several laboratories, and results are reported within 2-4 weeks. Tests can range from $300 to $5,000. Many insurance plans cover genetic testing, but only once. It’s important to know that the laboratory is CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) approved and what tests are being performed. Abnormalities are detected by different tests. Gene sequencing detects most mutations, but a second test for large scale mutations or genetic rearrangements should also be conducted.
Given all of the information and enough time to make the right decision, women can have a more active role in the fate of their health.
Nine Years Later, Still Going Strong
Many women worry about their quality of life after a hysterectomy, including their energy level, weight gain, impact on their relationships, and concerns about pelvic organ prolapse. (Advanced laparoscopic hysterectomy does not increase the risk of prolapse, because all of the supporting ligaments and muscles are preserved.)
“I’m thinner now than I was before my surgery. Right now I have a full time job, I work at Catholic University, and I have a tax business. I am a marathon runner. I did a marathon 8 months after my surgery. It was my 6th one. In 2008, I finished my masters degree. I was in the middle of my curriculum when I had the surgery. I’ve been keeping up with my activities, and I have a great energy level. ”
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GYN surgical specialists can often see women sooner because they are focused entirely on surgery. Each patient gets detailed, in depth attention from Dr. Natalya Danilyants and Dr. Paul MacKoul. This personalized care helps patients understand their condition and the recommended treatment so that they can have confidence from the very start. Our surgeons have performed over 20,000 GYN procedures and are constantly finding better ways to improve outcomes for patients.
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