Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Those of you who know me, have read my “About me section” or have been following my blog know that I lost my Mother to ovarian cancer when I was 18. She was only 49. We also lost my aunt to ovarian cancer when she was 52 and my great grandmother to ovarian cancer when she was 43. My Mother’s and aunt’s stories about their ovarian cancer diagnoses are very different. My aunt had been having severe stomach pain (especially after she ate), shooting pain down her legs and horrible periods for a while and went to see her doctor. He told her he thought the pain was caused from her high stress levels and to go home and do stress exercises. She eventually got a second opinion and they could actually feel the tumor before even running any tests. She was diagnosed at, age 50, with Stage IIIb ovarian cancer that was already on the liver. On the other side of the spectrum, my Mom found hers early. She was having very bad side pains that eventually made my Dad talk her into going to the ER. They thought it was her appendix and as they were in surgery, they found that one of her ovaries had gangrene (years before she had had her tubes tied). They took that ovary out, but left the other one in and when they performed pathology determined she had Stage II ovarian cancer. I was only 14 at the time and my Dad had been with her the entire time in the hospital and left to pick me and my sister up from school to bring us to see my Mom. During those 20-30 minutes (seriously, the hospital is just down the road from the schools), a doctor came into my Mom’s room and told her she had ovarian cancer and there was nothing he could do for her but make her comfortable for the next six months. My poor Mom! It had only been about 4 months since she lost her sister to the same disease and now she finds out she has it too. Luckily, my parents decided that doctor was a jerk and got a second opinion. I believe that is probably why she lived long enough to see me graduate from high school (about 4.5 years longer). I suppose she may have only had 6 months to live had she just assumed that doctor knew exactly what he was doing and had listened to him.

I wanted to share the details with you because ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer. Ovarian cancer survival rates are much lower than many other cancers that affect women. The symptoms that seem to be most associated with it can often be mistaken for other health issues, which in turn can contribute to a later stage diagnosis. To spread awareness of 4 main symptoms of ovarian cancer, several organizations, including the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC), the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF) and the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) have combined forces to spread the word, BEAT. BEAT stands for Bloating that is persistent, Eating less and feeling fuller, Abdominal pain, and Trouble with your bladder. Additional symptoms commonly reported include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities; however it is important to note that these occur at an equal rate in the normal population of women without ovarian cancer (http://www.ovariancancer.org/). A woman in the normal population has a lifetime risk of about 1.4% and women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have a lifetime risk ranging from 10-60% of developing ovarian cancer. The 5- and 10-year relative survival rates for ovarian cancer patients are 46% and 39%, respectively (http://www.ovariancancer.org/). The survival rates, of course, vary depending on the diagnosis stage. Although mortality rates for many cancers have decreased over the last 30 years, ovarian cancer mortality rates have remained unchanged. The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance has a wealth of information and statistics and also flyers to spread the word on BEAT (http://www.ovariancancer.org/).

The main message of this post is to please be aware of your body and trust that you know your body better than anyone else. Trust your instincts and be your own health advocate. Maybe spreading a little knowledge on known symptoms will one day help a woman get to her doctor a bit quicker than she normally would have. Please pay attention to your body, know your family history and stay persistent. Awareness and knowledge are power!

Oh and go teal this month! It’s the ovarian cancer awareness color. Check out Teal Toes!

Until next time, know and spread the word of BEAT, pay attention to your body, and stay healthy! :)


  1. My mom had cervical cancerat 34, but thankfully is in remission now. It's scary for me because I know something is not right with my body and I have every single symptom for her cancer(which are really similar to ovarian) but the doctors don't think I can have it because I am so young! (19) I'm definitely going to get a second or even third opinion, because like what happened with your mom, the doctors aren't always right!

    It's great to read your posts and though I don't know you, you seem like an extremely strong woman. I can't imagine the kind of emotional and physical stress that you have had to endure. You are amazing.

  2. Steff,

    I am so sorry to hear about your mom, but glad to know she is in remission. I am also very sorry that you know something isn't right and you are having concerning symptoms. YOU are strong for standing up for yourself and listening to your own body. I think it is very brave of you to advocate for yourself and hopefully you will find a doctor soon who will help you.

    Thank you so much for your kind words and for reading my blog; I really appreciate it. You sound like a strong and intelligent young lady - I wish you the very best and hope a healthy future is very near for you.

    Tracy :)

  3. Great Blog! You are a credit to the cancer blogging community. I have added you to my blogroll, “Cancer Blogs” with over 1000 other personal cancer blogs at www.beingcancer.net, a cancer networking site featuring a cancer book club, guest blogs, cancer resources, reviews and more.
    If you have not visited before or recently, please stop by. If you agree that the site is a worthwhile resource for those affected by cancer, please consider adding Being Cancer Network to your own blogroll.
    Now that you are listed, you can expect to gain a wider audience for your thoughts and experiences. Being Cancer Network is a place to share and communicate.
    And like bloggers everywhere, I love receiving your comments and ideas.

    Take care, Dennis (beingcancer@att.net)

  4. Dennis,

    I am so sorry for such a delayed response. Thank you so very much for reading my blog. I am honored that you feel it could be helpful enough to add to your Cancer Blogs on beingcancer.net. I am looking forward to spending time on your site gathering more information.

    Thank you for what you do!