I am, at the very core of my being, a teacher, so I hope you are ready for a pop quiz. Don’t worry: you should all pass with flying colors. No pun intended.
Question One: What does the pink ribbon represent?
If you answered breast cancer, then the marketing campaign to raise awareness for this important women’s issue has been successful.
Women are admonished to do monthly self -exams and have annual mammograms. As a result, we celebrate countless lives that have been saved. And yes, the hoopla will begin on October 1st, as many of us gather to participate in what I call, “walks and talks” to educate and enlighten. There has been a multitude of research done on breast cancer, which has led to better treatment options. God bless Susan G. Komen.
So here’s your second question: What does the teal ribbon represent?
Many of you probably don’t know, because of the inadequate information on ovarian cancer, a serious threat to women’s heath as well. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so I would be remiss if I didn’t include at least one blog post filled with information that just might save your life or the life of someone you love.
Unlike so many cancers with a definitive screening tool, a colonoscopy, mammogram, PSA test, for example, there is nothing for ovarian cancer, which can be elusive, and often goes undetected until it is in an advanced stage. As a result, many women chase a diagnosis with ambiguous symptoms that mimic so many common issues. It can be frustrating, of course, but it is also dangerous. Deadly, even.
But if we listen to our bodies, we will hear the uneven rhythm of changes that occur, even subtle ones, and will insist on an attentive ear from the medical community, who can sometimes be dismissive instead of following through with testing to rule out the possibilities. (Currently, those are limited to a CA-125 test, which detects the possibility of abnormal cells, a contrast CT scan, and transvaginal ultrasound. None of these are performed without some significant concern. It is truly a “Catch 22.”) Indeed, there must be an ongoing dialogue between health care providers and patients.
And the talking points begin with recognizing the symptoms:
Pelvic and abdominal pain
Increased abdominal size and bloating
Unexplained weight loss or gain
Shortness of breath or low back pain
Urinary frequency or urgency
Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
Constipation or diarrhea, nausea or indigestion
And yes, some of these are common. (What woman hasn’t had monthly bloating or a wicked case of indigestion after a late night of pizza and hot wings?) Furthermore, only one of these indicators might be ongoing or present to a varying degree. So is it any wonder that ovarian cancer is referred to as the silent killer because it is often diagnosed after it has advanced, when the prognosis is poor?
This is not simply a disease targeting post-menopausal women. It ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women. And In fact, any female is at risk. As hard as it is to imagine, the youngest reported case is an eight year old child. (Fortunately, she is in remission.)
So we hope for a cure. Of course, we do. But in the meantime, we push for a screening instrument, a definitive way to test so that it can be detected early, which is key. This is the first step toward saving the lives of the 22,240 American women who will be diagnosed this year alone. The statistics are sobering since over the next twelve months 14,080 women currently battling ovarian cancer will die of the disease. That’s puts every female’s risk at 1 in 100. And those are dismal odds. We have to try to change this startling statistic. ( facts from the American Cancer Society. 2017)
Knowledge is power. Sharing information begins with an open, honest dialogue. Please educate yourself and those you love. After all, life is precious.
For more information, please contact the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance, www.gaovariancancer.org or the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, www.ovarian.org