New study linking two cancers increases survival chances

MORE than 20 years after beating breast cancer, Laurel Mason found herself in a life-and-death fight against ovarian cancer.

But the Mons 66-year-old might have been spared the second battle had the results of new research been known during her first brush with cancer.

A Queensland study has found that breast cancer patients who have hysterectomies and have their ovaries removed have a greater survival rate than those who do not.

Director of the Queensland Centre for Gynaecological Cancer Research and the Cherish Women's Cancer Foundation, Professor Andreas Obermair, said the research was initiated to determine if prophylactic - preventative - removal of the uterus and ovaries in breast cancer patients made a difference.

"I see lots of women who come to me for treatment of ovarian and uterine cancer, and many of them had breast cancer in the past, and I thought this is just odd," he said.

Prof Obermair, a gynaecological oncologist who regularly visits the Sunshine Coast, said breast cancer patients had a 150% greater risk of uterine cancer and a 40% higher risk of ovarian cancer than other women.

The research, using the data of 20,067 women aged 20-79 diagnosed with breast cancer between 1997 and 2008, found that none of the 7% who later had hysterectomies developed ovarian or uterine cancer.

He believed the survival rate for breast cancer patients was improved by the prophylactic surgery because there were no ovaries to produce oestrogen to feed further breast cancer.

Mrs Mason said she would have had no hesitation in undergoing the prophylactic surgery if it meant that she did not have to go through her current health battle.

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