It's not a question you hear everyday, but each September, the goal is that more women will be better informed to answer that question.
If you are seeing teal ribbons around your town, as I do in mine, this signifies your town’s involvement in Turn The Towns Teal, a national Ovarian Cancer awareness campaign that occurs each September. My town looks spectacular in teal, but more importantly, after seeing these ribbons for several years, I was compelled to learn more.
A year ago, I knew little to nothing about Ovarian Cancer, other than the fact that Gilda Radner, comedienne of Saturday Night Live fame, lost her battle with this disease years ago. After spending time listening to the compelling story of two-time survivor, Judie, who with her husband, Tony, brought Turn The Towns Teal to Bristol, CT, I committed to supporting the awareness efforts.
Judie, openly shared with me her 15+ year journey. Today, her scans show no evidence of disease (NED) - music to the ears of someone who has been given a diagnosis. She lives in gratitude, paying it forward by speaking about her journey, with the hopes of helping other women speak up and ask questions of their physicians when they know something isn't quite right.
Statistically, Ovarian Cancer is considered rare, accounting for approximately 3% of cancers in women, or 1 in 75. However, last year, as my knowledge grew, so did my awareness of women in my town who were survivors or were currently being treated - FIVE women in all I knew of various ages and very different stories of how their Ovarian Cancer was detected. I found that fact startling which fueled me even more to take part in awareness efforts.
While Ovarian Cancer is the 8th most common cancer among women and is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women, it is the deadliest of gynecological cancers. "The earlier the diagnosis, the better prognosis," as the Turn The Town Teal tagline amplifies.
According to OvarianCancer.org, while no reliable early detection tool exists for all women, several tests exist for women who are at high risk. A woman should see her Gynecologist if she has persistent Ovarian Cancer symptoms such as:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
Determining Risk Factors Problematic
If a strong family history or a genetic predisposition exists such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation, doctors may monitor her with one of three tests, or a combination of them. Go to Ovariancancer.org and American Cancer Society for additional symptoms, risk factors and information. To better understand one's genetic predisposition, who should be tested and what genetic tests are available for cancer risk, refer to National Cancer Institute (NCI).
The American Cancer Society states about 5-10% of ovarian cancers result from inherited changes (mutations) in certain genes and OvarianCancer.org states the BRCA1 or BRCA2 Breast Cancer genes are responsible for about 10-15% of all Ovarian Cancers. So it begs the question, if being genetically predisposed doesn't account for the majority of cancer diagnoses, in not just Ovarian Cancer, but all cancers across the board, where is the greatest risk coming from?
The NCI and the Environmental Working Group (a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment), concur that carcinogens, found in the air we breathe, water we drink, food we eat and materials we use on our jobs can affect human health. The NCI adds that many factors influence whether or not a person exposed to a carcinogen will get cancer, such as the amount and duration of exposure, as well as genetics. For a listing of some cancer causing substances in the environment, click here.
Since the 1960s, it has been suggested that talcum powder (made from talc which may contain asbestos in its natural state), might cause cancer in the ovaries if the powder particles applied to the genital area or on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condoms were to travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary although findings have been mixed(1).
You may be surprised to know that currently, no law exists requiring safety testing of personal care products, and their ingredients before they're sold(2). The Personal Care Products Safety Act, a bill introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-California and Susan Collins, R-Maine would help the FDA ensure that cosmetics and other personal care products are safer. In the meantime, it is important to seek out products for personal care and home that are free from chemicals linked to cancer and other serious health conditions. For convenient access to safer choices, download EWG's mobile app.
Put on your teal and spread the word!