It's Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month!

by - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why should you care about Ovarian Cancer? September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, and this disease certainly warrants our attention. Ovarian Cancer is not one of the most common cancers effecting women (it only makes up about 3% statistically), but it is one of the most difficult to diagnose, and for that reason, one of the ones with the highest mortality rates.

Early diagnosis is so difficult that often by the time the cancer is found, it has already grown through the abdomen and may no longer even qualify as purely Ovarian Cancer. Aunt Ann was in this position when they found her tumor. She was 48. It has been a tough battle, but she is kicking cancer's butt. Her experience may have been totally different with earlier diagnosis, but this is not a real possibility yet. 

The American Cancer Society predicts that about 21,000 women will be diagnosed with Ovarian cancer this year, and about 14,000 will die from it (so 60%). In comparison, almost 300,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer or carcinoma in situ (the earliest phase of breast cancer), and about 40,000 will die from it (so about 13%). The numbers are much smaller, but the treatment is less successful.One of the reasons for this is that the average age of Ovarian Cancer diagnosis is relatively late in life (their 60's), but where other cancers have made a lot of progress, the mortality rate for this cancer has only fallen a very small amount.  In other words, it may seem like a less significant disease than breast cancer, but it still causes incredible damage, and it receives a tiny fraction of the research support.

You can learn all about Ovarian Cancer, it's symptoms, treatment, etc. on the American Cancer Society website. Though it has a lot of information, if you poke around long enough, you might notice there aren't as many opportunities to directly volunteer or contribute to Ovarian cancer. You will also read that early detection of this disease is less common, that its symptoms are easily mistaken for other problems until the cancer has traveled through the abdomen, and that papsmeres will not detect it. They most often use ultrasounds and CA-125 tests to keep an eye out for it in high risk women, but even that has not been proven with research yet. Researchers continue to look for options for early diagnosis, but they haven't gotten there yet.

So what is there for you to do? First, know your own family history and be ready to keep an eye out. This one is a sneaky one, but be sure to talk to your lady doctor about it, so you can be aware of your choices. Aunt Ann's daughter Shelly is going to get ultrasounds regularly to be on the lookout.

Think about donating to research or volunteering for Ovarian Cancer. This is freaking hard to do, but the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition is a great place to start if you are looking to run a race for Ovarian Cancer or to do some other fundraising for this cause. They have started the "Run to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer" which is still growing, but may be in a city near you. You may also be able to find a chapter to volunteer!

Building awareness can also be done- this group in Massachusetts has fundraisers and awareness events planned. If this is really close to your heart, maybe you could write them to start a branch in your own area? Because it is so rare, people may not pay much attention to this cancer, but with some solidarity and awareness, there might be a decrease in such late diagnosis.

I think groups are getting more pro-active about how the information can be shared and activated by the public after the ALS challenge (to mention another disease that is nasty and cruel, but often receives little attention). At, you can get infographics to share on your wall or even try to start off your own viral activism.

30 Days of Teal- Ack! Alright, clearly I am about 24 days late to this party, but the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance is really onto something here. If you want to get involved, they have a lot of options and ideas every day.

So this week on the blog is devoted to Ovarian Cancer and the amazing women putting up a battle against (especially Sargent Ann!) it. I think this is an area where we could do better, and even if you don't know someone personally who has struggled with this cancer, everyone knows how important early detection is for the cancer battle, and it just isn't available here yet. I am going to keep thinking about how to help in this fight, and I will let you know what I come up with.

Do you know anyone who has Ovarian Cancer? What do you think are the most effective ways to spread awareness about cancer?

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