New MUHC project takes aim at ovarian cancer

Dr. Lucy Gilbert. / Photo courtesy of the MUHC
Dr. Lucy Gilbert. / Photo courtesy of the MUHC

By Ian Popple

Ovarian cancer is a killer, but it can be stopped. And a new and innovative MUHC project called DOVE aims to do its part in helping women beat this deadly disease.

Ovarian cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of all diseases, but studies show that 90 per cent of people can be cured if it is detected in its early stages.

“Unfortunately the vast majority of people wait – sometimes as long as a year – before seeing a gynaecologist, by which time it is often too late to save them,” says Dr. Lucy Gilbert, Chief of Gynaecological Oncology at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).

The reason so many women wait before seeing a gynaecologist is because the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often very vague; women may feel bloated or suffer from heartburn. “These are hardly the kind of symptoms that cause women to run to their doctor,” says Dr. Gilbert. As a result, women often delay seeing a doctor until the disease has reached its critical stages.

In the greater Montreal area, 350 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed each year. “If we see these people in stage one, they have a great chance of being cured,” says Dr. Gilbert. “Unfortunately 80 per cent of people present to a gynaecologist in stages three and four, when the cancer has already spread to the vital organs.”

The DOVE project (Detecting OVarian cancer Early) aims to catch these new cases in stage one, when the chances of being cured are highest. The project, which is jointly funded by the MUHC Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has already established the world’s first Rapid Access Diagnostic Center for the early detection of ovarian cancer and has received 450 calls since May.

“Women who have been symptomatic (click here for symptoms: for more than two weeks and up to a year should call the centre and set up an appointment,” says Dr. Gilbert. “It’s free, you don’t need a referral, and in less than three weeks you will have the results.” In a race against time, every day counts.

As part of Ovarian Cancer Month Dr. Lucy Gilbert will present an overview of the DOVE study and inform women how they can become involved.

What every woman should know; a lecture by Dr. Lucy Gilbert, Chief of Gynaecological Oncology at the MUHC; Tuesday Sept. 9, 7:30pm; Nurses lounge (H4), Royal Victoria Hospital, 687 Pine Avenue West. Admission is free. To reserve a seat or for more information contact Monica McDougall (514) 934-1934 ext. 71243 or at  For more information about the DOVE trial please call: 1-866-716-3267 or visit: