Recognizing the signs, symptons, starting a rally
During September, people across the nation turn teal in recognition of National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
The gynecologic cancer is often referred to as the “silent killer,” as it is one of the most deadliest forms of cancers for women. In 2015, it is estimated that there will be 21,290 new cases, followed by 14,180 ovarian cancer related deaths.
There are dozens of advocacy groups for this disease, including one from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) called Inspire, where ovarian cancer survivors can talk to eachother for support and encouragement.
Ascension Parish resident and ovarian cancer survivor, Terri Colclough is the Louisiana advocate for OCNA. She has traveled to Washington D.C. numerous times to spotlight this cancer, as well as discuss budget issues with legislatures.
“I have met with legislatures or their aides to advocate every year when the budget issues come up they tend to want to cut money out of our funding because they are trying to balance the budget,” Colclough said. “We go and speak up and we have been very successful with having the money continually allocated or actually increased in the last year or so.”
Due to its subtle symptoms, many women often consider their symptoms to be part of a less critical condition and do not get diagnosed until later on. According to OCNA, early symptoms include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, back pain, constipation and urinary symptoms such as frequent urination and urgent urination. The Alliance urges women to contact their doctors if they experience the aforementioned symptoms for more than 12 times during a month, especially if symptoms are new or unusual.
As Colclough pointed out, cancer can happen to anyone. Her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which led her to be very proactive with her health, getting regular checkups every year for 10 years before she was diagnosed.
“If it can happen to me it can happen to anyone,” Colclough said. “I’m healthy, I’ve never been overweight, I watch what I eat, I’ve never been a smoker. I have just always been a very healthy person. It was very upsetting to me, it was very unexpected to me especially considering my vigilance.”
“I treat my cancer like a chronic condition. I don’t let it impact my life. I don’t let it get me down. I do what I want to do.”
Risk factors for women include obesity, hormone replacement therapy associated with menopause, reproductive history and infertility, family history, increasing age, with women between 55 and 64 at the highest risk, genetics associated with Lynch Syndrome, breast cancer gene 1 and 2.
It is urged for women to get checked regularly, though a screening test does not exist for ovarian cancer. Typical treatments consist of surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy and clinical trials.
“I advocate a lot,” Colclough said. “I want to inform women. I want them to know what the symptoms are. We all know what the breast cancer symptoms are because those survivors really lobbied and advocated to get the word out and I think the ovarian cancer community needs to follow their lead and do that same.”
More information about ovarian cancer or Inspire can be found at OvarianCancer.org.