Thursday, March 19, 2015

World Ovarian Cancer Day May 8

September is designated as Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, however there is another important day on the calendar that is about bringing awareness to Ovarian Cancer: World Ovarian Cancer Day on May 8. The event began in 2013 so it has a couple of years under it's belt.

We are fortunate in the Quad Cities area to have an active organization the NormaLeah Ovarian Cancer Foundation and there are many volunteers who are a part of the OCNA (Ovarian Cancer National Alliance) who are out in the community educating people about ovarian cancer symptoms and disease awareness.

I find surprising that we actually need to educate some physicians on the symptoms - and I'm not blaming or pointing the finger as the symptoms ARE similar in scope to some other ailments. But case in point, my mother had to be persistent in getting to the official diagnosis.

Unlike more common cancers, there are significant challenges as ovarian cancer has been largely overlooked and research has been underfunded to my understanding. Ovarian cancer symptoms are often misdiagnosed, as they can be confused with symptoms of other less severe illnesses, particularly gastrointestinal complaints, and the absence of an early detection test, and the resulting late diagnosis and poor prognosis.

This needs to turn around, and education and awareness are key. As I have been finding my way around, I have come to a conclusion that the standard of care needs to be raised - the current "standard of care" for ovarian cancer is surgery and chemotherapy... and that has remained unchanged for many years. The survival rate is not that great after diagnosis, mainly because it is diagnosed so late. So raising the standard of care for ovarian cancer to require some sort of screening test and an early detection standard in addition to educating each and every doctor in the United States about the subtle symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. I think that should do it.

And there are organizations such as NormaLeah and OCNA who are getting out there and talking to doctors as well as medical students about Ovarian Cancer. So the process has started.

Next time you are at the doctors office, mention Ovarian Cancer and ask what they know. Ask them if they include Ovarian Cancer in their list of diagnosis when a woman comes in with gastrointestinal issues but can't quite put their finger on it. That alone will make a difference.

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