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Ovarian Cancer & Pregnancy

December 4, 2009, 5:11 PM by Kelli Grant

Ovarian Cancer & Pregnancy
For many young women, an ovarian cancer diagnosis can make having children impossible. But now new research shows there may be options.

This year, it's estimated that nearly 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  And while most ovarian cancers are found in older women, about 17 percent of tumors are diagnosed in women under 40.

Elsie Byrd was told she had ovarian cancer at age 34. A devastating diagnosis, especially since she wanted to have another child.

“Right when we planned on having the second baby, it was like we were dealt this card,” Byrd said.

But new research shows she has another card to play. Traditionally, surgery for ovarian cancer means a total hysterectomy. Now some doctors say women with early stage cancer can keep at least one ovary or their uterus without increasing their risk of dying.

“I think this is an option for women that they need to discuss with their doctors,” Dr. Jason Wright with Columbia University Medical Center said.

Researchers looked at nearly 4,000 women. Some patients had just the cancerous ovary removed. Others had both. And some women also had their uterus removed.

Both groups had similar five-year survival rates.

“This definitely challenges the standard surgical operation for women with ovarian cancer,” Wright said.

Byrd just had her ovaries removed, leaving her the possibility to carry another child if she receives a donor egg.

“We can still be mothers, and it's important to know that we have options,” Byrd said.

She wants to give her son a sibling, whether she tries to conceive or adopts. But she's happy she'll get to decide.

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