Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 4, 2021

Ovarian Cancer is Unjust: No Screening Test, Significant Misperceptions, and Limited Funding

Nov 07, 2012

Last month pink ribbons were in abundance as well as 5-K runs, cross-country walks and T-shirts with clever slogans and all forms of media attention in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Rightly so; breast cancer afflicts about 1 in 8 women and it deserves all the attention it can muster. Most of us know someone battling breast cancer now or someone who has recently fought that battle.
Receiving much less attention is the “red-headed step child”: ovarian cancer and National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month which was in September. It lacks the public presence created by armies of activist and shelves of narratives of any sort.  Just a few are out there.  You might spy a teal ribbon on a bumper sticker or two but that’s about it.  The disparity is understandable as ovarian cancer affects only about 1 in 70 women.  A woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer every 37 minutes.  Few of us know someone battling ovarian cancer.  It is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women. There is no early detection test for the disease; Gail’s Anatomy encourages all women to learn the symptoms that may indicate ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is rare but it is the deadliest of all gynecological cancers. There is no routine screening and its symptoms often go unnoticed as they mimic common gastrointestinal conditions.  By the time it is finally detected it has usually spread. It is insidious and aptly nicknamed The Silent Killer.  In part, due to lack of press and lack of knowledge mortality rates are incredibly high.  Why aren’t women, doctors or clinics talking about ovarian cancer?
Some women start with a feeling of fatigue, maybe a backache. Not surprising as most women wear many hats.  Some of those hats are: wife, mother, grandmother, care giver, President, employee, church worker, neighbor, friend and more.  Some also notice abdominal bloating or pain, feeling full quickly, after only a bite or so.  Some might notice the need to urinate frequently or pelvic pain.   Unfortunately, symptoms persist, doctors’ visits occur: stress, menopause, irritable bowl, and gall bladder are just a few of the diagnoses.  Often, after repeated trips to the doctor or emergency room what appears to be some slight tummy trouble turns out to be an indication of something much worse.  It’s now been brewing for weeks, months or even a year.  By the time most women are officially diagnosed with ovarian cancer the disease is advanced, late stage, having spread to other organs – the five-year survival rate is less than 30% .  Statistics say it is a fight most women will lose sooner rather than later.  Approximately 1 in 4 women still think that a Pap test screens for ovarian cancer, it does not.  A Pap test screens for cervical cancer.
So as you begin to see pink everywhere you look I implore you to do one more thing. Initiate a conversation with your physician about the symptoms of and risk factors for ovarian cancer. Save the ta-tas? Absolutely!  Then go one step further because one in seventy is just not that frightening until you are that one.
Alicia Owens, Gail’s Anatomy
(source:  Ovarian Cancer Canada, and National Ovarian Cancer Coalition)

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