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September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

By , SparkPeople Blogger
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Unlike breast or cervical cancers, ovarian cancer can be incredibly hard to detect in its earlier stages, which makes awareness that much more important. It is the fifth most common cancer in women.

Represented by a teal ribbon, this cancer is often called the silent killer because of its difficulty to detect.
Early detection is key. The following symptoms have been associated with ovarian cancer. If you or someone you know experiences similar symptoms almost daily for more than a couple of weeks, please call your health care provider (preferably a gynecologist) immediately:
  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

Some facts about ovarian cancer, from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance:
  • One in 72 women will develop ovarian cancer (lifetime risk).
  • One in 95 women will die from ovarian cancer.
  • A woman’s lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer is 1.39 percent.
  • A woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer and dying from it is 1.05 percent.
  • The overall five-year relative survival rate for all women with ovarian cancer is 46 percent. This means that compared to women in the general population, five years from the time of diagnosis only 46 percent of women with ovarian cancer are still alive.
  • However, the survival rate improves greatly to 93 percent if the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage before it has spread. Only 19 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at this local stage.
  • Approximately 75 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage after the cancer has spread beyond the ovary.
  • The five-year survival rate for women with ovarian cancer has not significantly increased in the past 30 years—a mere 8 percent.
  • Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer from 1975 to 1979 experienced a five-year survival rate of approximately 38 percent. Today this rate is approximately 46 percent.

Some risk factors for
  • started menstruating at an early age (before age 12)
  • have not given birth to any children
  • had their first child after age 30
  • have experienced menopause after age 50
  • have never taken oral contraceptives
  • increased age, obesity, being a carrier of the "breast cancer" genes

According to research, eating at least 30 grams of fiber a day (most American get less than half that) can reduce your risk of both ovarian and breast cancers. Another reason to load up on whole grains, fruits and vegetables! Read more about how to increase your fiber intake!

For more information, including ways to help spread the awareness, please visit the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Photo: That lovely logo was designed by me. :-)

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Congrats to all the survivors of this awful cancer. I lost my mother 10 years ago. I have had a full hysterectomy due to CA125 counts being higher than normal AND bad Pap smears. I just didn't want to take any chances.

She has a 40 lbs mass found at surgery - al most stage 4. She lived 3 years almost to the day. Report
My Aunt Susie was diagnosed, had surgery and died all within two weeks. Every year we walk in her memory in the MD Anderson Sprint for Life 5k walk. This year our team is 20 strong. We walk in her memory and to help raise awareness and money for research. So that her daughter has peace of mind, knowing that a cure is being researched. Report
In 2000 I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer. I had swelling in my legs. I was tired and felt bloated. I thought I was really getting out of shape!
I glad to say that I went to my doctor and he diagnosed a large ovarian tumor (26cm by 19cm by 8 cm). The ovary ruptured before surgery. My doctor said the stage was 1C or early 3. I am still cancer free after surgery and chemo. The power of prayer and modern medicine!
My mom had ovarian cancer at 35 years old and also survived.
My advise is know your body and if you don't feel right- see a doctor. Report
ROSEMARDORF Hi I have aproblem with ovarin cysts,so I try to have my Doctor
keep an eye on them. They can be very painful at times. I am scared of this cancer also,
SO FAR VERY LUCKY!!! I to have lost family members to differnt types of cancer...I pray for
a cure someday!! Thanks for posting. Report
My baby sister was diagnosed 7 years ago after having been first diagnosed with IBS. She had stage 3. She had the surgery and two rounds of chemo. I'm glad to say that she's still very much alive and going to turn 50 later this year. She gets checked every 6 months to make sure that no cancer has come back, and I get checked every year with the CA125 blood test. Report
Cancer is a scary thing and it is nothing to mess with you right. Report
Having sat by my sister's side as she battled ovarian cancer, only to be diagnosed with pancreatic shortly after completing treatment, I am a huge proponent of doing whatever possible to increase awareness of both if these cancers. I recommend writing your Senators and Congressmen asking for monies for cancer research and awareness so fewer people have to experience the agony to comes with this diagnosis. Report
This is truth scary but we need to about this. I know this is about a different cancer but cancer is cancer no matter where it is. My uncle died with stomach cancer. He was diagnosed and with in a month he died. He was 60 Believe. Report
Thank you for this blog post! My mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer over 10 years ago...stage 4...She had the non-descript simptoms as was noted. She only went in because they were also side effects of meds she was on. She had immediate surgery and chemo, and has been cancer free ever since. One of her best friends went through the very same situation and recently passed away after less than 5 years from original diagnosis. If you have a family history it is VERY important to discuss and make plans for proper tests with your doctor. One of the only ways to detect is throught the trans-vaginal ultrasound -- a embarassing little test, but DO IT! Report
I have an aunt that just passed away from Ovarian Cancer...we NEED to get the awareness going! I didn't realize that this was the month designated for it. I'm going to look into opportunities in my area to help raise money for research! Report
A family history of breast cancer, especially pre-menopausal breast cancer is also a risk factor.

My mom was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer in January of 06, and a family history of breast cancer was her ONLY risk factor. She had been complaining to her doctor for over a YEAR before the doctor finally did a CT scan. If symptoms persist you must INSIST on a CT scan.

If you are at risk, insist that your gynecologist perform a trans-vaginal ultra sound with your annual exam. Also insist on a CA125 blood test. This is a cancer marker and the normal number is below 35.

My Mom is stable and is doing well. Great strides have been made in the treatment of this cancer. Arm yourself with information and insist on proper testing. Report
Thank you for reminding everyone :-) My aunt had ovarian cancer, and because of the 'sex' cancers in my family (everything from Irene's ovarian to my grandfather's prostate), I, too, am at risk. I get regular check ups for the female cancers as well as annual mammograms (and monthly self breast exams) And being a cancer patient all to myself, I also see my oncologist regularly just to stay healthy. :-) Report
this is very important to me as I have been having these symptoms for several months now and the pain is unbearbale, I am 49 y.o and do not have insurance and really need to get this checked as cancer runs rampant in my family, does anyone know where i could turn to get checked for free or sliding scale pay? Report
I cannot stress this enough- LADIES: GET YOUR ANNUAL PAPS! I was only 23 when when I had my right ovary removed. My annual came back abnormal & when my doctor followed up with other tests (internal, sonogram, etc), he found a grapefruit (yes- grapefruit) sized tumor on my right ovary. Until that abnormal pap, I had had no pain, no signs, no symptoms that anything was wrong. Luckily, the tumor was not cancerous, but even now (some 7 years later), I go for paps every 6 months.
As uncomfortable as these tests might be, they are SO important to our health! Be aware! Be informed! Go for your annual appointments! It could save your life! Report
My mom died of ovarian cancer when I was 21. She was 58. It was devastating to watch her through the agony she endured during her last months of life. I am now the mother of 3 boys, and I worry more and more as I age (I'm 44) about what my illness and death would do to them and to my husband. Fortunately, according to your list of risk factors, my risk of contracting this cancer is low. Report
My mother died of ovarian cancer in 1977 - she was only 42. She kept complaining about her symptoms, but her doctor just told her she needed to lose weight (she was morbidly obese). Luckily a lot has changed in 30 years, and we have info like that above so we know what to watch for. I want to add one risk factor not listed above: family history of ovarian cancer. Find out your family's medical history and talk to your doctor if you have family history of cancer, esp. ovarian or breast. As I'm close to the age that my mother died, and I didn't have my first child till I was 32, my doctor felt yearly pelvic and vaginal ultrasounds to check out my ovaries was appropriate for me. She's also checking to see if genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations would be appropriate for me.

BTW, don't wait to get your family medical history. I got mine from my dad during my 2nd pregnancy (because I was going to be 35 when I gave birth, I chose to talk to a genetic counselor and needed this info). My dad has since passed away though, so getting that info would be much harder now. Report
My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in April 2007. She had surgery and 18 weeks of chemo. In August 2008, her CA125 levels were rising and she is having chemo treatments again. She has a wonderful attitude and feels very well. She is an inspiration for me. I am pleased to see the blog topic and the links provided to create more awareness of this disease. Report
Thanks for the great information.
As we read mother just found out Sept. 3/2008 that she has Ovarian cancer.
She has to have 6 treatments of Chemo, every 3 weeks starting October 9,2008.
She is very scared and is trying to hide it from the rest of the family.
I wish more can be done to detect this type of cancer early but there isn't. I don't want to lose my mom to this and I have to little ones that need to have their Gramma in their lives.
I'm trying to be optimistic, but, it's so hard.
This is my first time leaving a comment and this is all I can say for now.
Thanks Report
I know this post is about Ovarian Cancer but I wanted to add that all types of Cancer can be quite devistating! My husband is currently battling stomach cancer. And the affect on him and our family has been a truly draining experience! Report
Wow - The stats are unbelievable. Cancer is such a sad disease. Report
I know a special woman in the fight for her life with this disease. Please keep yourself save and have check ups. Report
Scary. I knew someone with ovarian cancer and she beat the odds. Maybe we should start a foundation like Komen for ovarian cancer research to find tools to detect this cancer early. I don't know many women who don't experience some of the symptoms, but don't have ovarian cancer....... Report
As of June 15, 2008, I am a four year ovarian cancer survivor!
I co-lead the "Surviving Cancer" Team. Check it out if you are a cancer survivor yourself. We have an active team with those who have survived cancer for many years and also those who are now going through their first treatments. You can get to the team through the icon on my SparkPage. It has the link:

My 47 year old cousin died in July from this horrible disease. She left behind a husband and three sons. She was a nurse and thought the symptoms were the signs of menopause. She had no risk factors. Apparently a blood test exists that would help detect this early on - however, its consider "too expensive" to administer for those who are not considered high risk. When I told my ob-gyn about my cousin his comment was "its doesn't put you at any more risk than if your neighbor had it." We must do something to change these attitudes and make testing more routine, like PAP smears. Report
I also wanted to mention that this is also Cholesterol Education Month and the 28th is designated by the American Heart Association as World Heart Day so please remember to watch our cholesterol levels and take action for healthier hearts. In addition to breast and ovarian cancer, heart disease is a major cause of death for women and we need to be more aware of it. Two of my teams are tracking cholesterol this month and on the 28th, we'll be wearing red dresses or red ribbons in support of Healthy Heart Day. We hope you'll join us! Report
To my knowledge I've known one person to have ovarian cancer and she was a girl I went to college with. She had it in her late teens, early 20s and survived but it affected her emotionally and mentally. I don't think she was ever completely the same as an adult. I didn't know the "breast cancer" gene was linked to this. I carry that gene and now I'm even more at peace with my hysterectomy after reading this. Thanks for the article. Report
My Mom has ovarian cancer, it was stage 4 when it was diagnosed, (she had the abdominal pain and thought it was no big deal and she was a nurse) long road but she has beat it so far...please get tested, go for your yearly checkups. Report
I was just thinking of this. My sister-in-law told me about CA-125 blood test – CA-125 is a protein found in greater concentration in cancerous cells. Although a CA-125 blood test can be a useful tool for the diagnosis of ovarian cancer, it is not uncommon for a CA-125 count to be elevated in premenopausal women due to benign conditions unrelated to ovarian cancer. Uterine fibroids, liver disease, inflammation of the fallopian tubes and other types of cancer can elevate a woman's CA-125 level resulting in a false positive test. The CA-125 test is more accurate in postmenopausal women. However, in about 20 percent of cases of advanced stage ovarian cancer, and 50 percent of cases of early stage ovarian cancer, the CA-125 is NOT elevated, even though there is ovarian cancer present. As a result, the CA-125 is generally one of several tools used to diagnose ovarian cancer. One of the most important uses of the CA-125 test is to evaluate the disease’s progress and tumor response in patients undergoing treatment, and to monitor the levels of women in remission for evidence of disease recurrence. An elevated CA-125 can indicate ovarian cancer; however, as noted above, it may sometimes result in false positives.
My doctor would not give me this test due to false positives. I am going to ask again when I get an appt.
This is scary stuff. I read the risk factors and qualify in at least three of them. Makes you sit up and take notice. Thanks for the information. Report
Ovarian cancer scares me. I've known two people who have died from it, both women in their prime, and the speed at which they were taken was shocking to me. I wish there was a LOT more research being done to find better tests for early detection. Report
thankyou for this information.this is something every woman should know about and be aware of. Report
Thanks for the informatio. Report
I am having a complete hysterectomy in 3 weeks. I have grown yet another uterine polyp and have formed yet another cyst on my right ovary, the second time this has occured in 9 months. I had surgery to remove a uterine polyp in january. Both times when I was complaining of lower abdominal pain , weight gain,abdominal bloating and bleeding my doctor immediately thought 'cancer' , I will find out definitively in three weeks if there is any trace when she gets in there and removes the organs but the C125 test was negative in January and again was negative last week, as was the pap . I am still waiting on the last uterine biopsy that was done last week but that too was negative in January. I belive Gilda Radner died of ovarian cancer years ago and she had all kinds of symptoms for a long time that went unexplored.
Great info! Report
Thanks for providing this important information. Report
As women, we get LITTLE of the attention of ovarian cancer that MEN get about prostrate cancer! It is the same way with HEART Disease! Report
This is a very serious thing. My mother-in-law passed away in May due to ovarian cancer. It literally took the life away from her. Every woman should be aware of this. Report
My mother is still fighting ovarian cancer after two years. Get your yearly paps and if you think you may be at risk ask your doctor for a CA-125 to measure your cancer levels. My mother was in stage 4 before she was diagnosed. She thought she was simply having stomach problems. Report
Ovarian cancer is scarey to me. I had an aunt who went in for gallbladder sugery, and she had well involved abdominal cancer with primary site thought to be ovarian. I figure I have a higher risk than some, and will remain on birthcontrol as long as possible. I have no and plan to have no children, and started my menses prior to the age of 12. Thanks for the information. I will have to see about a teal ribbon for ovarian cancer. Debbie Report
I knew so little about ovarian cancer, but I'm so glad to know that I'm cutting my risk by getting enough fibre. Report
In your memory, Mary Lord: I am wearing my turquoise ribbon-pin. I am still floored to this day that you are gone, and that Ovarian cancer took you so quickly. You were so athletic, so healthy, so fit, and fit none of the profile risk factors for Ovarian cancer. I can still remember the day you called to tell me of your diagnosis. I wear my pin for you, and for increased awareness. Report
Our Classy Quitters Team mates change their avatars to something with teal on Tuesdays for ovarian cancer awareness. We've been doing this for over a month now. Report
Isn't it also Childood Cancer month? Report
My maternal great-grandmother had ovarian is a scary scary thing to me since it's not usually detected until its too late! Women need to be aware of it! Both my maternal grandmother and grandfather died of cancer. My great-aunt (my grandmother's little sister) is a cancer survivor. So far (knock wood) my mother, aunt, and myself are cancer-free...but with our family history, it won't come as a surprise if we are ever diagnosed with cancer of ANY kind... Report
My grandmother died of this when she wasin her 20's. My dad was only 3 months old. Both of my aunt's had it and survived. I am scared of this cancer!!! My mother's mom and dad both died of cancer as well, and so has one of her brothers. Report
Please read this and listen...Cancer is nothing to mess with...This was very good Report
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