Why One Patient Didn't Wait for Her Ovarian Cancer to Return

Why One Patient Didn't Wait for Her Ovarian Cancer to Return
Posted at 10:19 AM, Sep 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-07 22:34:45-05

(BPT) - At the age of 56, Debi was living her life working full time, staying active with her friends and family, including riding her motorcycle. She was happy, but so much changed when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Today, approximately 225,000 women are living with ovarian cancer in the US, and often times are diagnosed in advanced stages. In fact, only 20 percent of ovarian cancers are found at an early stage, and approximately 85 percent of women with advanced ovarian cancer will experience recurrent disease. As a result, this outlook can produce additional anxiety, worry and uncertainty for the thousands of women diagnosed each year.

Following surgery and chemotherapy, Debi, like the thousands of women living with ovarian cancer, experienced a recurrence. “When my cancer returned, the hardest part was telling my family and friends that I had cancer again,” said Debi. “I remember thinking, I did this once, I can do it again, but I don’t want to go back to how I felt when I had cancer the first time.”

When Debi finished her chemotherapy, she discussed her options with her doctor. Oftentimes, when cancer responds to chemotherapy, women are told to “watch and wait,” or observe their disease without active maintenance therapy until the cancer returns and then resume treatment, but based on her previous experience, Debi didn’t want to sit on the sidelines. Her doctor informed her about new options, called maintenance treatments for women who have recurred and whose disease has either fully or partially responded to platinum-based chemotherapy to help extend the time before cancer returns.

ZEJULA® (niraparib) is a prescription medicine used for the maintenance treatment of adults with ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, or primary peritoneal cancer, when the cancer comes back. ZEJULA is used after the cancer has responded (complete or partial response) to treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy. ZEJULA is a treatment for women regardless of if they have the mutation within the BRCA gene or do not have the BRCA mutation.

By working with her doctor, Debi was able to develop a treatment plan that was right for her. Debi (now 60 years old) believes that taking an active role in the decision-making process with your healthcare team is key. “Open communication with your doctor is important when you experience ovarian cancer. As a result, I was able to work with my doctor who provided me with options and things to do rather than watch and wait for cancer to return.”

To learn more about ZEJULA, visit

ZEJULA® (niraparib) Important Safety Information

ZEJULA may cause serious side effects, including:

Bone marrow problems called Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) or a type of blood cancer called Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Some people who have ovarian cancer and who have received previous treatment with chemotherapy or certain other medicines for their cancer have developed MDS or AML during treatment with ZEJULA. MDS or AML may lead to death.

Symptoms of low blood cell counts (low red blood cells, low white blood cells, and low platelets) are common during treatment with ZEJULA, but they can be a sign of serious bone marrow problems, including MDS or AML. These symptoms may include the following:

  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Feeling tired
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Frequent infections
  • Bruising or bleeding more easily

Your doctor will do blood tests to check your blood cell counts before treatment with ZEJULA. You will be tested weekly for the first month of treatment with ZEJULA, monthly for the next 11 months of treatment, and from time to time afterward.

High blood pressure is common during treatment with ZEJULA, and it can become serious. Your doctor will check your blood pressure and heart rate monthly for the first year during your treatment with ZEJULA and as needed afterward. Your doctor may lower the dose of ZEJULA to treat high blood pressure.

Before starting to take ZEJULA, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions, including if you:

  • Have heart problems
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. ZEJULA may harm an unborn baby and may cause loss of pregnancy (miscarriage)
    • If you are able to become pregnant, you should use effective birth control (contraception) during treatment with ZEJULA and for 6 months after taking the last dose of ZEJULA
    • If you are able to become pregnant, your doctor may perform a pregnancy test before you start treatment with ZEJULA
    • You should tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed
    • ZEJULA may harm your baby. You should not breastfeed your baby during treatment with ZEJULA and for 1 month after taking the last dose of ZEJULA

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

The most common side effects of ZEJULA include:

  • Heart not beating regularly
  • Dry mouth
  • Pain in your joints, muscles, and back
  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Change in the way food tastes
  • Pain in the stomach area
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Mouth sores
  • Cough
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Changes in liver function blood tests

If you have certain side effects, then your doctor may change your dose of ZEJULA, temporarily stop your treatment with ZEJULA, or permanently stop treatment with ZEJULA.

These are not all the possible side effects of ZEJULA. For more information, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or

Please see Prescribing Information