Going teal for September: Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, the estimates for the United States in 2013 are about 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer with about 14,230 deaths from ovarian cancer. That is more than half of those diagnosed dying as a result of the disease.

Not only is this a cause that is very important to me because I am a woman, but also because this is a disease that has hit my family. In the summer of 2009, my grandmother was diagnosed and not long after passed from cancer. As cancer tends to do, it spread to various parts of her body, but one of the types that she had was ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is the ninth most common cancer in women, not counting skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Ranking wise, it is fifth in the cause of cancer death in women. A womans risk of getting invasive ovarian cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 72 and her lifetime chance of dying is 1 in 100. About half of the women diagnosed are 63 years or older.

There are risk factors for ovarian cancer. One of the factors included family history of the disease. The risk is increased if a mother, sister or daughter has had ovarian cancer and that risk continues to rise with the more relatives who also have the disease. Up to 10% of ovarian cancers result from an inherited tendency to develop the disease (family history). Breast cancer and colon cancer histories can also increase the risk.

As with many diseases, ovarian cancer has signs and symptoms. Women are more likely to have symptoms if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, but early stage ovarian cancer common symptoms include: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly and urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency. Other symptoms can include: fatigue, upset stomach, back pain, and abdominal swelling with weight loss.

About 20% of ovarian cancers are found in the early stages, when it is found at a localized stage about 94% of patients live longer than five years after diagnosis. As with other cancers, the best way to fight the disease is to find it during the early stages.

Currently, researchers are testing new ways to screen women for the disease and looking for clues on the exact causes of ovarian cancer. Scientists are studying the genes responsible for familial ovarian cancer and are hoping that what they learn can lead to better ways of detecting, preventing and treating ovarian cancer.

Unfortunately, this is a type of cancer that is hard to catch and once you do, it may be too progressed to have a high chance of a positive outcome. My advice to you during this teal colored month (the color for ovarian cancer awareness) is to be informed and to trust your instincts. You know your body and know when something is not right. Be aware of your family history and what you may be at a higher risk for. There are success stories out there.

For more information on ovarian cancer visit www.cancer.org/cancer/ovariancancer.

Shea Singley is the Editor of The Hamburg Area Item. She can be contacted at ssingley@berksmontnews.com.