Ilana knew she was at risk for breast and ovarian cancer because of her family history. She had requested a BRCA test to be proactive in her care and it was confirmed that she indeed had a BRCA1 mutation. However, since her mother wasn’t diagnosed until her 60s, she thought she had time.
When Ilana was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 45, she felt angry because she had taken steps to prevent ovarian cancer by undergoing surgery to have her ovaries removed. Prophylactic ovary removal, meaning to remove your ovaries before you have cancer, is known to reduce the risk of getting ovarian and breast cancers because hormones that feed cancer are removed. During this prophylactic surgery, Ilana's doctors discovered what looked to be a cancerous tumor coming from her right fallopian tube. While she was still on the operating table, the tumor was sent to the laboratory for identification. The role of the laboratory was put front and center during this process as pathologists and laboratory professionals provided information about whether or not her tumors were indeed cancerous while she was on the operating table. As the gynecologic pathology team looked closely at Ilana’s tumors, they were able to tell the type of ovarian cancer that she had and helped in determining the stage of her cancer.
Ilana encourages patients to become as informed as possible about their diagnosis and details of their disease. From experience, she understands that the more you know about your disease, the better you are prepared to manage it. She also emphasizes to get your information about your disease from reliable sources, such as ASCP Patient Champions, and to not look at statistics online, believing that individuals are a population of one and every person’s diagnosis is unique.
Today, Ilana is an ovarian cancer survivor. She continues to get regular checkups with her oncologist where the laboratory performs a cancer antigen CA-125 blood test that can detect a protein that’s often found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells. This test is done to monitor her health and to make sure there is not a recurrence of cancer. She lives with her diagnosis by helping others and doing meaningful work and giving back to the community working for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and managing its DC chapter and national advocacy and programming. She continues to make a lasting impact in the ovarian cancer community through her work and lives a fulfilling life through her career and being there for her family and children through important milestones in their lives.