Washington, DC — For the estimated 83,000 women who will be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer in 2010, participation in clinical trials offers an opportunity both to ensure that future patients benefit from the most up-to-date treatments and increased survival rates and to potentially improve the health of current patients. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports the efforts to raise awareness about gynecologic cancers and participation in clinical trials—a main focus of this year’s Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month (GCAM) in September.
Gynecologic cancers originate in the female reproductive organs including the cervix, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina, and vulva. “Raising awareness of gynecologic cancers is extremely important because every woman is at risk,” said Richard Waldman, MD, president of The College. “As ob-gyns, we have a responsibility to educate our patients about the very real threat of these cancers, which will kill approximately 28,000 women in the US this year alone.”
In addition to raising general awareness of gynecologic cancers, this year’s GCAM highlights the critical role of clinical trials in the prevention and treatment of disease. These trials are a key step in the discovery process that leads to the development of new therapies and advances in medicine.
Women who participate in clinical trials make an extremely valuable contribution to scientific knowledge. They also may gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available and can benefit from having their health closely monitored on an ongoing basis. They often have easy access to the clinical trial team, obtain expert medical care at leading health care facilities, and are able to raise questions and concerns during treatment. Some women who participate in a clinical trial report feeling empowered because they are taking an active role in decisions regarding their health. It can also be a way of paying-it-forward and helping those who will struggle with that disease in the future.
Despite the importance of participating in clinical trials, only three percent of adults do so. That rate is even lower among low-income women and minorities, groups that have disproportionately higher rates of cancer-related deaths.
“The thought of trying a novel approach instead of a more tried-and-true therapy may be frightening when you’re dealing with an illness,” Dr. Waldman notes. “But considering participation in a clinical trial may be wise for cancer patients—it could be a choice that saves your life.”
Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF), which sponsors GCAM, urges women diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer to learn more about clinical trials. The GCF’s Women’s Cancer Network website (http://www.wcn.org) is a comprehensive and educational resource on gynecologic cancers. Women can find out about clinical trials that are currently enrolling, take a free 15-minute online risk assessment to learn about their personal risk of developing cancer, and more. A tool-kit designed to help community members set up local awareness events is also available.
More information about common cancers affecting women, prevention, symptoms, and treatment options can be found at http://www.acog.org/from_home/misc/protectanddetect.pdf.
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The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 55,000 members, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care.