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Women Have a New Weapon to Fight Ovarian Cancer

Leonor Rivacoba’s Story: “Surviving Ovarian Cancer too Many Times to Count”

CyberKnife Center of Miami - Radiosurgery Specialists - Cancer Center - Miami, Florida

As the office manager of a major food distributor, Leonor Rivacoba is used to working long hours. “I had endless energy and couldn’t have done my job without it.”

But Leonor was forced to cut back after learning she had ovarian cancer in April 2006. “I went to the doctor because my stomach was bloated and they found a tumor the size of a softball.”

Leonor immediately went into surgery to remove the tumor and had chemotherapy, but it quickly came back. She says, “The cancer came back with a vengeance and spread fast.”

Leonor had another operation to remove the tumors and continuous chemo, but it wasn’t working. More tumors surfaced and this time her doctor said there wasn’t anything else he could do for her. Leonor was not about to accept that as the end. “I had golf ball-sized tumors but I knew ovarian cancer was not going to kill me. Something else will, but not cancer.”

She kept that positive attitude even though the cancer had spread to her liver, lymph nodes, and outside her lungs, and she lost her spleen.

As grim as things looked, a friend battling lung cancer insisted she see his doctor who uses CyberKnife radiation technology to fight tumors.

“Ralph said, 'After you talk to God, you see Dr. Fahed Fayad.’ My friend was given six months to live, but he got 10 more years and his cancer was everywhere.”

Leonor had nothing to lose and everything to gain so she took her friend’s advice. “Dr. Fayad looked at my PET scan and said, 'This is totally treatable with the CyberKnife but we have to start immediately.'”

The CyberKnife is robotic radiation technology. The device delivers high doses of radiation with pinpoint accuracy directly to the tumor, leaving surrounding tissue unharmed. The tumors are zapped and shrivel up while you get on with your life.

Dr. Fayad, a board-certified radiation oncologist says, “CyberKnife radiosurgery is extremely effective and well-tolerated. We do what a surgeon does without a knife and without the toxicity of chemo. Plus, if the tumors come back you can zap them as many times as need be.”

A new study published in the medical journal Frontiers in Oncology and reported this month at the annual meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists proves its effectiveness. A phase 2 trial among 50 patients with recurrent gynecologic cancers found that 68 percent had a positive outcome from CyberKnife therapy.

At 6 months, the majority had a complete response, partial response, or stable disease. Dr. Fayad says, “CyberKnife is an excellent tool to help us manage cancer like a chronic disease, like diabetes. We prolong lives, give people quality of life, and keep them disease-free.”

Leonor says, “I can’t even remember how many times the cancer came back. They’ve treated at least 10 to 18 lesions. The only side effect I had was a little nausea and I felt tired, but it went away in a week.”

CyberKnife gives doctors another option for patients whose gynecologic malignancies recur, mainly ovarian and endometrial cancers. Another bonus: treatments are often done in 3 consecutive days instead of 5 to 7 weeks. Leonor has been cancer-free for two years.

CyberKnife Center of Miami - Radiosurgery Specialists - Cancer Center - Miami, Florida

She’s still working but only part time. She plans on traveling more and watching her grandson grow up. 

“I never looked at my cancer as the end of the world. I knew I had to tackle it head on but I’d be okay. However, if I hadn’t gotten to CyberKnife, I wouldn’t be here today. Right now life is perfect. I look forward to the future.”

CyberKnife Center of Miami - Radiosurgery Specialists - Cancer Center - Miami, Florida