News | December 10, 2007

Technique May Allow Doctors To Tailor Treatment For Cervical Cancer

December 11, 2007 - A recent study found that with cervical cancer, treatments such as chemotherapy can nearly double a woman’s chance of survival if there is good blood flow inside of the tumor.

By the end of 2007, more than 11,000 women will have been told they have cervical cancer, but doctors are getting better at treating it and increasing patients' chances of survival. They're making those improvements with the help of some high-tech imaging.

Linda Witter knows just how quickly cancer can change your life. After the thrill of winning an Olympic medal as the coach of the U.S. Synchronized Swim Team, she found herself in the battle of her life with cervical cancer.

"When the medalists and everybody was getting ready to visit the President, I was told I had cancer. And it really was the worst day of my life," said Witter.

That was nearly four years ago. Today, Witter is a cervical cancer survivor. Because of new research led by Nina Mayr, M.D., at Ohio State University's James Cancer Hospital, there may be even more women like Witter. Dr. Mayr and her team have found that by using MRI technology, they can monitor treatments in women as they are given.

"The innovative thing about the MRI is that we are doing it during treatment - not before and after. That's because we need to measure what the blood flow is like during treatment," said Dr. Mayr.

In a recent study, Dr. Mayr and her colleagues found that if a woman has enough red blood cells, and there is good blood flow inside the tumor, treatments like chemotherapy can nearly double a woman's chances of survival. If the MRI shows both red blood cells and blood flow are low, doctors can then alter their treatment to be more aggressive.

"I think we're very excited that we found yet another piece to the puzzle that can help us make the treatment more individualized for the patient and hopefully get them a better chance," said Dr. Mayr.

Dr. Mayr's study shows that if a woman's red blood cells and blood flow inside the tumor are good, the chance of survival jumps from 56 percent to over 90 percent. Doctors say it's important for women to get an annual pap smear test to check for cervical cancer because there are often no signs or symptoms until it's in the later stages.

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