September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries, where eggs are produced and can quickly spread to other organs. It is known as the “silent killer,” and is the 5th most common cancer in women. I am writing this blog to spread awareness of this “silent killer,” because November 1st of this year will be the three year anniversary of the passing of my sweet, mother-in-law, Bette. Bette fought for her life, graciously, for 9 long months. I miss her every single day and it breaks my heart that my children won’t get to grow up knowing her and having her in their life.
In February of 2011, we found out that my mother-in-law had ovarian cancer. She had gone to her regular doctor and he sent her for further testing. Once she found out what it was she immediately went to MD Anderson in Houston to start her treatments. I remember being on the phone with her and telling her that we were going to beat this disease and I believe we all truly thought she was going to. After all, she was the glue that held the family together, so she had to stay around.
By June, around my sons 1st birthday she started to have symptoms of a secondary disease that caused her to lose feeling in her hands, then legs and then prevented her from swallowing. In July, she had surgery to remove the large tumor in her abdomen. While in surgery they found that her cancer had spread throughout her intestines like salt crystals. She fought so hard for the next few months. She always told us not to be sad and that she had had a wonderful life. My son was almost 17 months old when his Nana passed away. He loved her so much and I am so sad she is not here today to see all 7 of her grandchildren (and one on the way).
The reason why ovarian cancer is so “silent” is because most of the symptoms can be common in women who do not have ovarian cancer. I am sure at some point during a woman’s monthly cycle she feels a few of these symptoms. According to the American Cancer Society the main symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
- Pelvic and or abdominal pain;
- Difficulty eating and feeling full very quickly;
- Urgency to urinate;
Some other symptoms can be:
- Back pain;
- Pain with intercourse; and
- menstrual irregularities.
Some of the main risk factors are:
- Middle aged or older (after menopause);
- Obesity (BMI of 30 or more)
- Close relatives who have had ovarian, breast or gastrointestinal cancers;
- Gene mutation BRCA 1 or BRCA 2;
- Having a history of breast, colon or uterine cancer; and
- Having never given birth or had difficulties getting pregnant.
Only around 20% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at an early stage. If it is diagnosed at an early stage there is a 90% chance of survival passed the 5 year mark. At least 50% will die within five years of diagnosis. If you have these symptoms more frequently you should make an appointment to see your Gynecologist right away. According to the American Cancer Society they are doing research to find a way to diagnose ovarian cancer at its earliest stage.
Teal is the color that represents ovarian cancer. Please wear teal, paint your nails and toe nails teal and help spread the word about this silent killer. FEEL IT & TEAL IT is the way to go in September!