More than half of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer live at least 20 years after diagnosis, a study shows, with women who live beyond 65 years of age in the most likely to be diagnosed with the cancer.
Women living beyond 65 are four times more likely to die from the disease than women in their 20s.
“A woman’s prognosis will be even worse if she lives beyond 65, but she still has a chance to live longer,” said lead researcher Dr. Jessica J. Tuchscherer.
In the study, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, TuchSC and her colleagues surveyed more than 800 women aged between 65 and 80 and asked them about their cancer risk, their history of cancer treatment and their health insurance coverage.
“We found that even with these very high odds, women still have a very good chance of living beyond 70 years,” TuchScherer said.
“If we could just take the best information we have now and make it more accurate, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Tuch’s team examined women’s health insurance status, including whether they had private coverage or Medicaid.
They also looked at the health of women living with other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as health insurance.
The study found that women with no health insurance were two times more than those with a job, were twice as likely to have a pre-existing condition and were three times as likely as women with insurance to have had their insurance changed.
Women with job-protected coverage were more than three times more prevalent than women without coverage.
“There’s an economic impact of having people living past 65 years living longer, and we’ve been seeing that trend going back to the late 1970s and early 1980s,” TufScherer added.
“Women are still more likely than men to have health problems like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, depression and stroke.
So women are going to be less healthy than men.”
The researchers also examined a database of 1,500 women and found that while many women live past 65, many are also living in poor health and still have some cancer risk factors.
“What’s more surprising is that the people who are living past 70 are still living in pretty good health, even though they are much more likely still to have certain cancers,” Tuzscherer said, noting that people in their 80s and 90s are more likely not to have any cancers.
The researchers hope that by looking at these factors, they can better understand how ovarian cancer risk is distributed.
“This is the first time we’ve really looked at what’s going on with cancer risk in women, and it’s really interesting to see that women are getting worse,” Tuchs said.
Women in their 70s and 80s may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than those in their early to mid-20s, for example, but they also have a lower cancer risk than those over 65.
The team also found that the likelihood of developing ovarian cancer is greater in women who smoke and older men who have had heart disease.
“One of the challenges of cancer research is that we’re constantly trying to learn more about the mechanisms, the pathways,” Tuts said.
Cancer research also has implications for health care, as people who live past 70 may not be receiving the best care.
“They may be more at risk of some of the more common cancers that we know about like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer,” Tuvscher said.
The findings could also have implications for the women who are suffering from the debilitating effects of cancer, as they may be in more physical pain than their younger counterparts.