September marks the nationwide observance of National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, as designated by the President of the United States. This is the fourth year that Pete Kremen, County Executive, and the Whatcom County Council have proclaimed September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in Whatcom County. On September 14, at 7 p.m., the Council and Kremen presented the official Proclamation in the Council Chambers at 311 Grand Avenue in Bellingham.
Ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all the gynecologic cancers. If detected early and treated properly, survival rates increase to more than 90 percent. However, 80 percent of women are not diagnosed until late stage, and 55 percent will die within 5 years. It is expected that over 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 15,000 women will die from it this year in the United States.
To date, there is no effective early detection test and no cure for ovarian cancer. Therefore, the recognition of symptoms is vital to early detection, when the chance for survival is greatest. These symptoms are:
• Bloating or increased waistline
• Pelvic or abdominal pain
• Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
• Urinary urgency or frequency
Other symptoms include unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, low back or leg pain, persistent indigestion, gas or nausea, unexplained weight gain or loss and abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Because these symptoms resemble other health problems, they are often missed or dismissed by women and their healthcare providers, leading to late diagnosis of the disease. A frequent misdiagnosis is irritable bowel syndrome. See your doctor, preferably a gynecologist, if you have these symptoms almost daily for more than one to two weeks.
Risk factors include family or personal history of ovarian, breast or colon cancer, not bearing children, increasing age, and ethnicity including Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. Breast and Ovarian cancer are related/at risk for one, at risk for the other.
Women who have a family history or have tested positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic marker may be eligible for the Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Program in Seattle. Call 800/328-1124.
I have a personal interest in raising awareness about ovarian cancer as I was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer in June 2006, having been misdiagnosed for at least five years. Since then I have dedicated myself to promoting ovarian cancer awareness by speaking to women’s groups and the nursing students at Bellingham Technical College and Whatcom Community College.
Additionally, I will be performing my ovarian cancer story in Pam Kuntz’s latest work, In the Context of Life, a dance/theatre piece that opens on September 24 during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Bellingham. This performance piece shares the health stories of 15 people and how they understand and shape their lives. Shows run the last weekend in September and the first two weekends in October. Advance tickets are available at Village Books and the Co-Op. Ovarian Cancer educational materials will be available to audience members.
We extend our appreciation to Pete Kremen and the Whatcom County Council for supporting Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Their Proclamation is a major step in helping us draw attention to ovarian cancer.
Know your body, know the symptoms! Help spread the word! The life you save may be your own!
For additional information, or to arrange a speaking engagement, contact Linda Adler at 360/714-8905 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is dedicated to the memory of Joe Bates, Whatcom County’s Information and Communications Coordinator, who died on August 28th. Joe was always generous with his time and eager to assist me in getting the word out about Ovarian Cancer. He will be missed.