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“To Catch a Thief” by Cathy Dunn Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 29th, 2022

Introduction

Significant breakthroughs in medicine are common in the 21st century. The success in the medical field is due to the amalgamation of knowledge through thousands of years of human history. However, some diseases have no effective cure. One example is ovarian cancer because there is no recognizable symptom that physicians can use to provide a clear prognosis. The medical community understands the importance of early detection, as well as the development and use of effective treatment modalities. Cathy Dunn’s article entitled Finding and Fighting Ovarian Cancer: to Catch a Thief sheds light on this medical problem.

The patient featured in the article was Linda Stokman. Her case was highlighted because of two reasons. First, she did not know that she had ovarian cancer up until the disease reached Stage 3. In this particular stage, the tumor has spread outside the pelvis and has reached areas like the upper abdomen. Although the area affected was significant, Linda had no idea that there was cancerous growth inside her.

The second reason why Linda Stokman’s case was featured in the article was due to her reaction to chemotherapy. Some of the people she knew who were treated with chemotherapy reported no problems. But Linda said that chemotherapy “destroyed my blood platelets and caused bone pain so severe I could hardly walk. I couldn’t take hormone replacement therapy either, so I had hot flashes 24 hours a day” (Dunn, 2003, p.23). The drugs used were Taxol and Paraplatin. Researchers pointed out that Taxol caused nerve damage. Thus, Dunn brought to light alternative treatments for ovarian cancer.

Cancer Prevention

The article written by Cathy Dunn was a valuable contribution in the quest to defeat ovarian cancer especially in the context of prevention. The following discussion will help explain why. In the opening part of the article, Robert Ozol asserted that like all cancers, “the earlier ovarian cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat” (Dunn 2003, p.22). It is easy to understand the logic of this statement when one uses a basic framework of how cancerous cells multiply and invade the human body. The significance of Ozol’s statement can be appreciated based on the following definition of this medical phenomenon:

Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells. Cancer arises from an organ or body structure and is composed of tiny cells that have lost the ability to stop growing. This growing mass of cells then projects from that organ or body structure until it becomes large enough to be noticed by a patient or physician (Stern & Sekeres, 2004, p.2).

The key concept is the abnormal growth of cells. Thus, the basic treatment strategy is geared towards the effective and immediate inhibition of growth. Furthermore, the smaller the size of the tumor, the less damage to the organ or the surrounding tissue. The smaller the size of the tumor, the, it is easier to remove it through surgery. Thus, patients with ovarian cancer must be able to detect the problem early in the evolution of the disease.

But Dr. Ozol clarified an important feature of ovarian cancer and he said, “This disease is particularly difficult to catch in early stages because most women have minor symptoms – or no symptoms – until cancer has reached an advanced stage” (Dunn, 2003, p.22). Dunn clarified the importance of early detection through the discussion of the general nature of the disease as seen in the following analysis.

This medical condition can develop from different components of the ovary (Bristow & Salani, 2011, p.2). However, the most common type is epithelial ovarian cancer. It arises from the lining of the ovarian surface (Bristow & Salani, 2011, p.2). Pathologists created the four stages of ovarian cancer to identify and deal with the problem.

  1. Stage 1 is the phase wherein a doctor can show that the cancerous growth is confined to one or two ovaries (Dunn, 2003, p.22). In this stage, surgery is recommended and it is followed by chemotherapy for certain patients.
  2. Stage 2 is the phase wherein the tumors are seen to spread to the surrounding areas, especially the pelvis, fallopian tubes, and womb (Dunn, 2003, p.22). In this particular stage, doctors recommend a more extensive surgical procedure and chemotherapy.
  3. Stage 3 is the phase wherein the tumor is seen to spread outside the pelvis and into peritoneal surfaces “surrounding lymph nodes or upper abdomen” (Dunn, 2003, p.22). In this particular stage doctors usually recommend surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy if isolated cancer colonies recur after the two previous treatment modalities were completed.
  4. Stage 4 is the most serious phase wherein cancerous growth has spread out outside the abdomen and has affected organs throughout the body (Dunn, 2003, p.22). In this particular stage, doctors recommend a combination of standard treatment modalities. In addition, they may also suggest the use of experimental treatment methods.

It is also important to point out that there are three different grades of ovarian cancer cells. These different grades are determined under a microscope. Grade 1 ovarian cancer cells are also known as low-grade cancer cells because these cells look like ordinary ovarian cells. Grade 1 cancer cells “grow slowly and rarely spread” (Dunn, 2003. P.23). Grade 2 ovarian cancer cells are also known as moderate-grade cancer cells. Grade 3 ovarian cells, however, are known as high-grade cancer cells and known to grow quickly and spread rapidly (Dunn, 2003, p.23). Knowledge about the various stages in the evolution of the disease can encourage early detection. In other words, at-risk patients are encouraged to seek the help of medical experts to take a closer look at the results of their medical exams.

The statement that knowledge is power is manifested in this article. The general description of the nature of the disease, as well as the different levels of progression of this type of cancer, can help women become more active in seeking preventive care. The most critical information encountered by the reader is the fact that there is no easily recognizable symptom for this disease. Thus, patients may already have Stage 1 ovarian cancer and yet they are still unaware of the problem.

In terms of preventive care, the most important information that can be found in the article is the discussion of an experimental screening test called proteomics screening. It is based on the computer analysis of “proteomic patterns, the distinctive protein patterns in the blood that may predict ovarian cancer” (Dunn, 2003, p.26). It is a promising development in the fight against ovarian cancer because the conventional methods used to detect the disease, such as pelvic exams, transvaginal ultrasounds, and CA-125 blood tests had been proven unreliable, especially in the early stages of the said disease.

Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Cathy Dunn’s article is a valuable contribution when it comes to information dissemination of new treatment modalities. One of the treatment modalities mentioned by the author was Taxotere. The active ingredient for this drug is docetaxel (Dunn, 2003, p.24). An overview of this method will reveal that Taxotere inhibits cancerous growth by blocking the mechanism needed for cell division. This is an important discovery because, in the case of Linda Stokman and other patients, the conventional treatment methods they used were non-effective. It must be clarified that another important feature of this new treatment method is the assurance of less incidence of nerve damage. One can just imagine the consequence of nerve damage to an already frail body ravaged by ovarian cancer cells.

The importance of the article when it comes to information dissemination can also be seen in the discussion of a new form of treatment called Doxil. The author did not only present a new form of treatment to combat ovarian cancer but also presented information as to why chemotherapy is not a perfect tool against ovarian cancer. In this particular section, it was revealed that the body’s immune system detected and destroyed foreign materials introduced to the body, and this included complex drugs for cancer treatment. But in the case of Doxil, it was revealed that the treatment method utilized an ingenious way method of drug delivery. The active ingredient was wrapped in a bubble of fat called liposome so that it can evade detection and destruction by the immune system (Dunn, 2003, p.24).

Aside from Taxotere and Doxil, the article also featured Hycamtim. Its active ingredient is topotecan. The author increased awareness that there is another way to defeat ovarian cancer. The significance of this discovery will be appreciated by patients like Stokman who suffered debilitating side effects from conventional treatments. The more treatment modalities are made available in the market, the more chances that patients will find out which form of treatment is more effective. In addition, the greater the number of choices made available to patients will result in more efficient competition between different suppliers of drugs. The net effect will be cheaper medicines for cancer patients.

Conclusion

The article is an important contribution to the fight against ovarian cancer because it provides vital information about preventive care. The article is also an excellent source of information with regards to new treatment methods to combat the said disease. Numerous ovarian cancer patients suffer from the lack of effective screening methods that can help detect cancerous growth at the earlier stages of development. At the same time, patients suffer from the debilitating side effects of conventional chemotherapy treatments. The article is an effective information dissemination mechanism so that the general public understands the threat of ovarian cancer.

But at the same time, it provides information with regards to prevention and effective treatment strategies. It is also important to follow up on the experiment treatment methods discussed in the article. The information that can be gleaned from the article can help future researchers develop more effective ways to deal with ovarian cancer cells. The information gathered can be used by ovarian cancer patients in a discussion with their physicians.

References

Bristow, R., & Salani, R. (2011). Johns Hopkins patients’ guide to ovarian cancer. MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Dunn, C. (2003). Finding and fighting ovarian cancer: to catch a thief. Cure, 21-27.

Stern, T., & Sekeres, M. (2004). Facing cancer: a complete guide for people with cancer, their families, and caregivers. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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