What Do You Know About Ovarian Cancer?

I don’t usually discuss the personal aspects of my life with the whole world wide web, but this is just too important, so listen up. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s time to Break the Silence.  If you are a woman or have women in your life that you care about, please read and share this post.

In early 2007, my mom was diagnosed with primary peritoneal carcinoma, a cancer mostly commonly classified in the same category as ovarian cancer due to the similar prognosis and treatment. Fairly soon after her diagnosis, she had a tumor removed from her peritoneum (a membrane that forms the lining of the abdominal cavity) the size of a grapefruit and immediately began first line chemotherapy. During the chemo, she stopped working, lost a lot of weight and her hair. She was probably more sick than she let on, but she stayed positive. Six months later, she began to feel better, gained her strength back, and went back to work. Everything was great. And then in mid-2008, the cancer showed signs of its return. She went through several different second line chemotherapy drugs, but nothing seemed to help. On May 9, 2009, my mom passed away at the age of 59. Three years later, I still think about her and miss her everyday.

Jenn and mom, Christmas 2007

Me and my mom, Christmas 2007. And yes, she was one of those women who looked beautiful even without hair.

Few people know much about ovarian cancer, but it’s important to be aware of the basics. The symptoms are not specific (my mom had been feeling bloated for a while) and unlike breast cancer or cervical cancer, there are no early detection tests. Pap smears do not detect ovarian cancer. So while the five-year survival rate of women who are diagnosed early with ovarian cancer is high at 90%, only 19% of all cases fit that bill. For those diagnosed at an advanced stage, like my mom was, the survival rate is a low 30%. Ovarian cancer has the highest mortality rate of any cancer associated with the female reproductive system. And it can strike any age. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 22,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012; more than 15,000 women will die from the disease. (SOURCE)

graphic - 1 in 71 women will develop ovarian cancer

The first step to battling this awful disease is to KNOW THE SYMPTOMS:

  • Bloating
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often

Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Back pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual changes

If any of those symptoms last for more than two weeks, please see your doctor. Remember, you must be your own advocate! After being dismissed as simply being obese, my mom went through a few doctors before she was diagnosed correctly. I should also add that she was no medical neophyte. My mom was a registered nurse who worked in a hospital for more than 30 years. (SOURCE)

Now that you know the symptoms, here’s what else you can do. Make a donation to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, whose mission is “to raise awareness and promote education about ovarian cancer. The Coalition is committed to improving the survival rate and quality of life for women with ovarian cancer.” Dylan and I just did the 5K Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer a few weeks ago and raised more than $250, thanks to my awesome friends who gave their financial support.

Jenn and Dylan at the finish line for the NOCC 5K, August 2012

At the finish line. Doesn’t Dylan look great in teal?

If you need more incentive than a tax deduction to donate, how about buying make-up? Laura Mercier has launched a special Ovarian Cancer Fund and have created two special products for the cause, a blush palette and lip gloss. 100% of the sales of these two items go straight to the Ovarian Cancer Fund. Buy make-up and support a great cause? Who doesn’t love that?

Laura Mercier Ovarian Cancer Fund mission

Remember, ovarian cancer can affect you and the women in your lives. Know the symptoms and please share the message.

Images: 1 in 71 women graphic, Speak Out For Hope, All other images – author’s own

9 thoughts on “What Do You Know About Ovarian Cancer?

  1. Daira

    Thank you for sharing this. Hopefully your words will inspire any woman who may be feeling these somewhat benign symptoms to seek medical help.

  2. Linda

    Thanks for spreading the word! So sorry for your loss. My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 3 years ago, had a major surger and then chemo. At this time she is in remission. She is a breast cancer survivor as well. She was tested for BRCA genetic mutations which put women at high risk for both cancers and is positive for a mutation. So I got tested as well and am also positive. Knowing about my risk, I am able to take measures to reduce the likelihood of getting those cancers too. More knowledge and awareness of the symptoms and reality of ovarian cancer is much needed. Thank you for adding your voice.

    1. jenn

      I’m so glad to hear that your mother is doing well. She sounds like a real fighter!

      I also took the BRCA test, and while I was relieved to be negative, it’s still in many ways a crap shoot. Knowledge is definitely power when it comes to something like this where there’s no cure yet. Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  3. Anastasia Fabing

    thank you for your story. My heart goes out to you. I lost my sister to ovarian cancer back in 2006. It was a devastating loss, as was yours, I’m sure. Learning and informing others about what to look for is vital, as well as pushing for more preventative measures/tests. I want to see pelvic ultrasounds become part of the annual exam for all women. If you have a history of ovarian cancer, they will do this test, but it shouldn’t have to be that way, imo.I realize that test may not catch it, but it will give a baseline to doctors to notice any significant changes.
    I also lost my other sister to melanoma, so am very familiar with cancer treatments and the horrible things it does to a person. We must find a way to cure all cancers, and I pray we do it soon! Take care and stay strong~

    1. jenn

      Thank you so much for sharing, Anastasia. I also lost my brother to liver cancer in 1999, so I 100% agree with everything you’ve said. Cancer sucks, and we have to fight smarter till we find a cure.

  4. Pingback: Hair After Chemo: A Trifecta of Triumph | Beautypendence

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