With September now in our rear view mirror, so is the official campaign for Ovarian Cancer Awareness, however the need for awareness continues. To one survivor, it’s a 365 day mission. Judie Lodovico, who brought Turn The Towns Teal to her hometown, feels blessed to have the opportunity to educate people about Ovarian cancer by sharing her experience and knowledge. A 14 year, (2 time) survivor, Judie says, while she has seen some strides made in the past 10 years, it’s just not enough.
Startling statistics and silent symptoms are the reason awareness and education must continue – 22,000 women each year, or 1 in 75, will be diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer and 15,000 each year will die. In women age 35-74, Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths, according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.
Ovarian cancer cannot be detected by a pap smear, a procedure done during an annual Gynecological exam, or any other preventative screening and the symptoms can mirror those of other health conditions. The NOCC states, every woman should undergo a regular rectal and vaginal pelvic examination. If an irregularity of the ovary is found, alternatives for evaluation include transvaginal sonography and/or tumor markers. The most common tumor marker is a blood test called the CA-125.
As I sought out additional information to better understand and convey how a woman might recognize the signs of Ovarian cancer, it was alarming to me that there was no definitive way.
By giving you a glimpse inside Judie’s story and others, I hope to widen eyes and peak ears, moving more women to action toward thorough yearly Gynecological examinations and pursuit toward answers when something doesn’t feel quite right.
At 58 years old, during an internal pelvic exam, Judie’s ObGyn felt a roughness around her ovaries. Other than swollen ankles she had been experiencing, no other symptoms were present. Judie didn’t think anything of the swollen ankles since it was the beginning of a heat wave. She had “never felt better and had the energy of 18 people.” A trans-vaginal ultrasound was performed as well as a CA125 blood test. The blood test came back negative however the ultrasound, detected the tumor. The following day, Judie received her diagnosis – stage 1C Ovarian cancer in three different locations. Two days after her diagnosis, she had surgery; a total abdominal hysterectomy and appendix were removed. Two weeks after surgery, she underwent six weeks of chemotherapy treatment. Just shy of 6 years later, a recurrence was detected in her spleen. After having it removed, she underwent 6 more rounds of chemotherapy, followed by 1 year, (every 3 weeks), maintenance chemotherapy. Today, Judie’s most recent scans show no evidence of disease. She has no family history of a reproductive cancer. Her advice to every woman she has the chance to speak with, “women should not feel foolish. If you’re not feeling good but can’t put your finger on it, keep going. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t cancel your yearly appointments.”
Since writing Before you "Pink", I learned of a high school friend’s diagnosis 1 year ago. At 47, after persistent fatigue that continued to worsen, her ObGyn felt cause to pursue the source of the fatigue. After thorough testing that took a bit of time, including blood work that came back “ok”, Stage 2 Ovarian cancer was detected by a CAT scan. Today, her most recent scans show no evidence of disease.
Gail MacNeil, the Founder of Turn The Towns Teal and Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation, wanted to make sure others knew what she found out too late. On 3 separate occasions she expressed concern over subtle symptoms she was experiencing. Her doctor dismissed these each time, as merely associated with middle age. After a 10 year battle with advanced Stage 3 Ovarian cancer, Gail died.
These stories certainly support the mantra - the earlier the diagnosis, the better the prognosis.
For additional resources and information on Ovarian Cancer, visit the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.
Wellness to you!