It’snever too soon to check for ovarian cancer, says survivor

Published on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 by inda Adler

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It’s never too soon to check for ovarian cancer, says survivor

By Linda Adler

September has been designated National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. Pete Kremen, Whatcom County Executive, will issue a proclamation on August 7 designating September 2007 Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in Whatcom County. The county joins other counties, states and the United States in issuing an official proclamation.
We applaud the Whatcom County Council for their interest and participation in bringing ovarian cancer awareness to the public this month. This significant event will take place at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at 311 Grand Avenue in Bellingham. The public is invited to attend, and we urge all ovarian cancer patients, survivors, and their families, friends and supporters to participate and be recognized.

As an ovarian cancer survivor, I have a personal and significant interest in creating ovarian cancer awareness. In June 2006, I was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer. During treatment, I realized that I had been misdiagnosed for at least five years. Had I been diagnosed sooner, I might not have been facing a possible death sentence.

In January 2007 I went into clinical remission. Grateful to be alive, I promised myself that if I survived, I would dedicate myself to promoting ovarian cancer awareness, so that other women might not have to face what I, and too many others, have experienced.

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest of the gynecologic cancers, and yet little attention has been given to this dreadful disease. Because there is no reliable routine screening tool, like the pap or mammogram, women and their health care providers must be aware of the symptoms that are often undiagnosed or misinterpreted because they resemble other health problems, such as urinary, menopausal, colon, depression and stress. A frequent misdiagnosis is irritable bowel syndrome.

Ovarian cancer was considered women’s “silent killer” because it was believed that there were no significant warning signs until it was in late stage. Not so! Now, cancer experts have identified a set of health problems that may be symptoms of ovarian cancer because they recognize that for the majority of women the disease causes symptoms at earlier stages.

In June of this year, recommendations were announced by the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists and the American Cancer Society. Women are urged to see their doctors if they have these symptoms nearly every day for more than a few weeks:
• Bloating or increased waistline.
• Pelvic or abdominal pain.
• Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly.
• Feeling a frequent or urgent need to urinate.

Attention should also be given to other symptoms, including unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, low back or leg pain, persistent indigestion, gas, or nausea, unexplained weight gain or loss, or abnormal vaginal bleeding.

Risk factors also include family or personal history of ovarian, breast or colon cancer, not bearing children, increasing age, and ethnicity, including Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.

About 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are expected in the United States this year and 15,000 women will die of this deadly disease. Washington State has the highest incidence of ovarian cancer in the nation; approximately one woman will die every day.

Awareness of the symptoms is the key to early diagnosis, and early diagnosis is the key to survival. Unfortunately, only about 20 percent are in early stage when diagnosed, at which time the survival rate is severely reduced. When ovarian cancer is detected early, over 90 percent of women survive.

With these recommendations and symptom recognition, it is hoped that women will be better informed and that medical professionals will be more likely to diagnose early enough to reduce the statistics and save lives.

Ovarian cancer awareness is so important that on January 12th, 2007, President Bush signed “Johanna’s Law”, a Federal Bill authorizing a $16 million national campaign to increase awareness and education about ovarian and other gynecological cancers.

The Ovarian and Breast Cancer Alliance of Washington State wishes to thank Pete Kremen and the council for supporting us and we urge county officials to attend this important ceremony.

For additional information or to arrange a speaker for your organization, contact me at 360/714-8905.

Linda Adler is a retired licensed clinical social worker who moved to Bellingham two years ago after closing her 20 year psychotherapy practice in Miami. She is now working with the Ovarian and Breast Cancer Alliance of Washington State.