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Causes of death among women with epithelial ovarian cancer by length of survival post-diagnosis: a population-based study in British Columbia, Canada


Objectives Little is known regarding the health of women who survive more than 5 years following their ovarian cancer diagnosis. To bridge an important gap in our knowledge about long term health of ovarian cancer survivors, we examined the causes of death among women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer between 1990 and 2014 in British Columbia. These causes were stratified by years since diagnosis, and compared with age- standardized causes of death among women who have not been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Methods We examined all women with epithelial ovarian cancer in British Columbia 1990–2014 using population- based administrative datasets. We stratified women into three groups: all epithelial ovarian cancer patients; women surviving 5 to 9 years post-diagnosis, and women surviving 10 or more years since diagnosis. All- cause and cause specific standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated.

Results There were 4246 deaths among 6427 women with epithelial ovarian cancer. About 55.9% of deaths were from ovarian cancer. When compared with the general population, the highest SMRs (SMR of 5 or higher) were for deaths from other cancers and external causes (44.4% from falls) among women surviving 5–9 years and 10 or more years post-diagnosis. Mortality from other cancers can largely be explained by deaths from breast cancer (15.8%), lung cancer (12.3%), and colorectal cancer (11%).

Conclusions While the majority of epithelial ovarian cancer patients continue to die from their ovarian cancer, our results suggest that long term ovarian cancer survivors are particularly vulnerable to deaths from other cancers and from falls in elderly survivors. These data could indicate closer surveillance for breast, lung, and colorectal cancer, and closer attention to bone health is warranted among women surviving for 5 or more years following their epithelial ovarian cancer diagnosis.

  • ovarian cancer
  • long term survivors
  • mortality
  • standardized mortality ratio

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