Women's College Research Institute

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“Survivorship” care for women who haven’t had cancer

November 2012

Increasingly, hospitals and researchers are focusing on how to improve the long-term health and quality of life for people who have been treated for cancer.

Dr. Amy Finch, post-doctoral fellow, is also trained as a genetic counsellor. Finch is pictured with Aletta Poll, one of WCRI’s genetic counsellors.

But what about people who’ve undergone hormone-altering treatments – like prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy (PSO, which is the removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries) – that are designed to prevent cancer?

“Women with BRCA mutations are often counselled about surgical options, such as prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy, that are very effective at reducing their cancer risk,” says Dr. Amy Finch, a post-doctoral trainee at Women’s College Research Institute.

“But this surgery can also impact other aspects of their health such as bone density and overall quality of life,” she explains.

Finch, who is also trained as a genetic counsellor, recently published a review in Women’s Health discussing the effects of PSO in premenopausal women, and offering recommendations for clinicians about follow-up care for these women after surgery. 

“It appears that routine care following PSO may not be as systematic as it should be,” she says. “It is important that clinicians are aware of the possible health effects after oophorectomy in premenopausal women because effective treatments are available.”

For Finch, the creation of clear guidelines for health-care practitioners is part of the answer. In a study recently funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, she will work with Dr. Paula Harvey, Women’s College scientist and cardiologist, Dr. Angela Cheung, a bone density specialist and Dr. Murphy and Dr. Rosen, gynecologic oncologists. The team will examine the impact of the surgery on bone density, cardiovascular health and quality of life.

"We need to understand the full consequences of this surgery," explains Finch.

More on WCRI’s breast cancer Impact + Innovation

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