New Study Aims to Reduce Ovarian Cancer in Latinas

November 25, 2014

Research study shows knowledge deficit in Arizona.

 GILBERT, Ariz. – Ovarian cancer is a “silent” killer that causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system annually. Among Latinas in particular, medical experts expect ovarian cancer to grow more prevalent in the U.S. – even though it is becoming less of a threat to the rest of the population. Matthew Schlumbrecht, MD, gynecologic oncologist at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, is leading an investigative study that shows education is key to increasing awareness of ovarian cancer in Hispanic women.

The study, now in its second phase, is in partnership with the Mesa Public Schools Family Literacy Program. The City of Mesa was identified as a unique community; 25 percent of its population is Hispanic, and 38 percent of those residents were not born in the U.S.

Dr. Schlumbrecht’s goal during the first phase of the study was to evaluate the awareness of ovarian cancer in Arizona’s Hispanic women, and expand the knowledge base by implementing a community program. The program included a questionnaire given to more than 150 young women and parents to test what those women already knew about ovarian cancer.

Schlumbrecht found the women had an understanding about basic anatomy, such as where ovaries are located, but knew significantly less when it came to risk factors, genetics, and screening tools available to them. They had an extremely low awareness of symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Schlumbrecht and his colleagues then created an educational program, which includes a 10-minute video. The program highlights information about ovarian cancer symptoms, risk factors and treatment. A test is administered after the video is shown to determine if it was effective in teaching the women more about ovarian cancer.

“We are hopeful that these women will share their new found knowledge with other family members such as their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts,” Schlumbrecht said. “Women need to be aware of what should prompt them to see their doctor. They deserve the same amount of education as other populations.”

Dr. Schlumbrecht’s study helps to further determine the level of knowledge surrounding ovarian cancer-related risk factors, prevention, symptoms, and treatment among Latinas in Arizona. Previous studies have shown that more than half of Hispanic women cannot define cancer, and many don’t know about genetic counseling.

Women who have ovarian cancer often notice no symptoms until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. Women are usually diagnosed at Stage III or Stage IV, and require a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Many women go for months without knowing they have cancer or being diagnosed. Some women may have no symptoms at all. Typical symptoms include abdominal pain, loss of appetite, irritated bowels, and bloating.

“It is important to increase community awareness, so we can diagnose early when the disease is still curable,” Schlumbrecht said.

Ongoing efforts to expand educational programs in both ovarian and breast cancer are under development at Banner MD Anderson.

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, located on the Banner Gateway campus, delivers cancer care to patients in Arizona through the collaboration of Banner Health and MD Anderson Cancer Center. Banner MD Anderson offers focused disease-specific expertise in the medical, radiation, and surgical management of the cancer patient; an evidence-based, multidisciplinary approach to patient care; access to clinical trials and new investigative therapies; state-of-the-art technology for the diagnosis, staging and treatment of all types of cancer; oncology expertise in supportive care services.