Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
Three years ago I was diagnosed with early stage Ovarian Cancer (Clear Cell) at the age of 32. Had chemo and surgery. I would like to adopt a child in a couple of years but I'm afraid I won't have a normal life expectancy. I have three aunts who died of breast cancer prior to the age of 65 and one had colon cancer. I was recently diagnosed with osteopororis. What do you think? When I mentioned to my doctor my desire to adopt he suggested genetic testing. Which makes me think its a bad idea and I'm going to die young. I'm afraid to ask the direct question in person.
Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:
I don't think you should hesitate for one minute to talk to your oncologist directly about your life expectancy. Believe me, your doctor should be used to talking with patients about these issues. Please be aware that while no one can tell you for certain if your disease will recur or if you are cured, you can expect to have a discussion about realistic expectations for your individual situation.
While clear cell ovarian cancers have been associated with some poorer prognosis, many patients who are diagnosed in early stages may be cured. While I can give no guarantees and I certainly do not know the specifics of your situation, if you are three years from your original diagnosis without any evidence of disease recurrence, this may be a good sign. Given you were diagnosed with ovarian cancer at such a young age, and your family history of breast and colon cancer, genetic testing may be something you want to explore regardless of your decision regarding adoption. Patients who have identified genetic mutations in certain genes may opt for earlier or more frequent screening or even prophylactic procedures to try to decrease the risk of breast or colon cancer. You should also know that some studies have shown that ovarian cancer patients with mutations in BRCA1 have a better prognosis than patients who develop sporadic ovarian cancers.