Did you know that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month? Ovarian cancer strikes about 3 percent of women.
The American Cancer Society estimates for ovarian cancer in the United States for 2022 are:
- About 19,880 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
- About 12,810 women will die from ovarian cancer.
Although early cancers of the ovaries generally cause no symptoms, they list the most common signs and symptoms as:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms such as urgency (constantly feeling like you have to go) or frequency (having to go often)
To be your health advocate, you must pay attention to your body. You need to know what’s normal for you. Contact your medical professional if you are experiencing some of the symptoms above.
To learn more about this disease and the possible treatment options, I reached out to Dr. Laura Shawver, an ovarian cancer survivor (ironically a cancer researcher) and the founder of The Clearity Foundation. According to Shawver, ovarian cancer treatment has not improved as quickly as treatments for many other cancers. The Clearity Foundation is working hard to change this. The foundation notes that, like all cancers, ovarian cancer is not a single disease but a category of many diseases. Just as each woman who develops ovarian cancer is a unique individual, her cancer is unique as well. The foundation’s goal is to help women with recurrent ovarian cancer live longer, healthier lives by enabling a more individualized approach to their treatment journey.
- The cause of most ovarian cancer is unknown.
- Ovarian cancer usually occurs in women over 50, but it can also affect younger women.
- Ovarian cancer is the ninth most common type of cancer in women but the fifth leading cause of cancer death.
- One of the primary challenges of ovarian cancer is that initial symptoms are generally mild, making early detection difficult. As a result, women often do not notice or mention the symptoms to their physicians until the disease is in advanced stages. Only 24 percent of ovarian cancers are detected at an early stage before it has spread outside the ovaries.
According to Mayo Clinic, there are three types of ovarian cancer based on the cell of origin. Many more are based on the genomic underpinnings that drive the cancer to grow and spread. The cell of origin categories are:
- Epithelial tumors – These tumors begin in the thin layer of tissue that covers the outside of the ovaries. It is estimated that roughly 90 percent of ovarian cancers are epithelial tumors.
- Stromal tumors – These begin in the ovarian tissue that contains hormone-producing cells and are usually diagnosed at an earlier stage than other ovarian tumors. Approximately 7 percent of ovarian tumors are stromal.
- Germ cell tumors –These tumors begin in the egg-producing cells. These are rare and tend to occur in younger women.
“As soon as I was told I had ovarian cancer,” Shawver said, “I wanted to understand the blueprint of my cancer (genomic make-up or molecular profile), so I could match my cancer to a drug that would work best for me. As a cancer researcher, I thought I would have an ‘in’! When I was diagnosed, I even remarked to others, ‘Oh, I will just have my tumor profiled.’ I was so surprised that not only were there no labs that would profile my tumor, there was no mechanism to get this done outside of a clinical trial. This service was not something that existed for ovarian cancer patients. I wanted to change that.”
She launched the Clearity Foundation in 2008 to help ovarian cancer patients and their physicians make better-informed treatment decisions based on the molecular profile of the tumor, which she calls the “tumor blueprint.” Since then, Clearity’s services have expanded to include education, clinical trials, navigation, and 1×1 ovarian cancer counseling. Clearity’s vision is to support life with ovarian cancer, using the latest science and research to help women live longer, healthier lives. Clearity meets women and caregivers where they are and personalizes support based on their unique situations. If you know of anyone impacted by ovarian cancer, please encourage them to contact Clearity. The organization is based in San Diego, but they help people throughout the country.
Shawver is hopeful about the future, but she stresses that we need everyone’s help; we need more pharma companies to have clinical trials in ovarian cancer, doctors to explore all options for their patients, and insurance companies to cover the cost of the profiling. We need women to empower themselves with information to best fight their battle. She fully expects more women to get their cure as we can better match patients with treatments.
Be sure to check out The Clarity Blog. It features current research findings, promising discoveries, and innovative ideas from oncology thought leaders.
The sisterhood is powerful. When we speak out, we shake things up! Look at the strides we have made with Breast Cancer Awareness. When Dr. Shawver was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she not only took care of herself, but she created a foundation to help others!
It is important to note that The Clearity Foundation does not charge for the tumor blueprint. However, the foundation does incur significant costs for the services it provides. In addition, it tries to help defray the cost of biomarker testing for women who need financial assistance. The foundation relies on charitable donations to make that possible. In honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, I shall donate to The Clearity Foundation. If you want to join me, make your donation here.
Please share this blog with your sisterhood so that together we can expand ovarian cancer awareness and help support and advance this cause.
Together we CAN make a difference.
My Motto: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
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*EllenDolgen.com does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about any tests, studies, practices, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, healthcare providers, physicians, or medical institutions that may be mentioned or referenced.