CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Shares Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

By Pat Carragher - June 21, 2021

CNN reporter and chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour announced Monday that she has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The 63-year-old has been off the air for the past month following her diagnosis.

“I’ve had successful major surgery to remove it, and I’m now undergoing several months of chemotherapy for the very best possible long-term prognosis, and I’m confident,” Amanpour told viewers. “I’m telling you this in the interest of transparency but in truth really mostly as a shoutout to early diagnosis.”

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women. The ACS predicts that more than 13,000 women in the United States will die from ovarian cancer this year.

Amanpour urged women to educate themselves on this disease and to listen to their bodies. She also recommended that viewers get regular screenings and scans that they have access to.

According to Dr. Robert Wenham, chair of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Department of Gynecologic Oncology, there currently is no effective test to screen for ovarian cancer.

Dr. Robert Wenham
Dr. Robert Wenham, chair and research director, Gynecologic Oncology

“The development of a test with appropriate predictive values for ovarian cancers is challenged by the low prevalence of the disease in the population,” said Wenham. “Equally challenging is the anatomic location, as most of these come from the fallopian tubes that are internal to the patient and are open to the abdomen and pelvis.”

The most effective predictor for ovarian cancer is a good family history, according to Wenham. If your genes put you at risk for the disease, physicians can help prevent it with surgery or use of certain medications; but not screening. Even in high-risk patients, there is no test that can catch ovarian cancers early enough to make a real difference in survival rates.

The unique biology of ovarian cancers also makes them difficult to detect.  “Early stage ones tend to be the slow growing, indolent types,” said Wenham. “The more common, fast-growing ones become an advanced stage quickly. Even if we had a good screening test reliable enough to determine cancer and noncancer, it would need to be able to be performed at a frequency of time intervals when the prognosis can be changed.”

According to the ACS, if ovarian cancer is caught at a very early stage, up to 94% of patients live longer than five years following their diagnosis, but only 20% of diagnoses present at this stage. Women are more likely to have symptoms if the disease has spread, but occasionally early stage ovarian cancer can cause them, as well.

Common symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urgent or frequent urination

“Unfortunately, by the time symptoms develop, the cancer is typically at a point where earlier detection will not change the long-term outcome,” said Wenham. “I and my colleagues dream of the day when we might develop effective tests for various groups.  The encouraging news is we have been highly effective in helping decrease the risk of this cancer with a deeper understanding of genetics, and women with ovarian cancer are living years longer with new treatments.”

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