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CMC goes teal to mark Ovarian Cancer Month

By Joseph Pepe, M.D.
President & CEO, Catholic Medical Center

September 04. 2017 9:11PM
For more information on ovarian cancer
• National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Inc.: 888-682-7426; www.ovarian.org.

• American Cancer Society: 800-227-2345; www.cancer.org.

• National Cancer Institute: 800-422-6237; TTY: 800-332-8615; www.cancer.gov.

• National Women's Health Information Center: 800-994-9662; www.womenshealth.gov.

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 800-232-4636 (CDC-INFO);www.cdc.gov/cancer/gynecologic.

Dr. Joseph Pepe



Ovarian cancer occurs when cells grow out of control in the ovaries (female reproductive organs that form egg cells (ova) and produce female hormones). About 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer occur in the U.S. per year, and each year more than 14,000 women die of this disease, making it the largest killer among cancers of the female reproductive system.

Ovarian cancer is difficult to find early and as a result, most patients are diagnosed in the late stages after the cancer has spread and the prognosis is poor. Unlike mammograms for breast cancer and pap smears for cervical cancer, there are no screening tools that catch the disease early enough to decrease death rates. Making the situation worse, the physical findings are uncommon in the early stages of the disease. The symptoms are vague, and often confused with other diseases so that physicians are generally not alerted to even looking for the disease until it is too late.

Over the course of the month, Catholic Medical Center will be increasing awareness through scholarly education sessions for clinical staff, education for the public, wristbands, ribbons, posters, public service announcements, videos, and social media. The CMC sign on the sky bridge will be lit teal color for the whole month and we’re encouraging everyone to joining us in wearing teal on Friday, Sept. 8.

Why are we raising awareness for physicians and the public?

Most people do not realize that while the risk of developing ovarian cancer is far less than the risk for developing breast cancer, the five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is significantly less than 50 percent, while that of breast cancer is significantly greater than 90 percent. This is why it is so important for women to know their risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Any woman can get ovarian cancer but there are certain risk factors that increase that likelihood, such as:

• being middle-aged or older;

• a family history of ovarian, breast or colorectal cancer;

• a personal history of breast cancer or certain genetic mutations;

• being of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) heritage;

• having children late (35 or older) or having fewer pregnancies and being of the white race.

Possible symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

• abdominal swelling/bloating;

• pelvic discomfort;

• loss of appetite and/or feeling full early during a meal;

• indigestion;

• nausea;

• change in bowel or bladder habits;

• back pain;

• vaginal pain and vaginal bleeding.

Unlike a lump in your breast for breast cancer or a coal black mole on your skin for melanoma, none of the above mentioned symptoms are “specific” to ovarian cancer and can be associated with many very benign conditions as well as a few other serious conditions.

Although there are no routine screening tests for ovarian cancer and the symptoms are vague and nonspecific, there are ways you may be able to catch it earlier and improve your prognosis.

Being aware of ovarian cancer is the first step. Pay close attention to your body and understand what is normal for you. If you experience any of the symptoms above, especially if these symptoms are recurrent or persistent, tell you doctor and ask about the possibility of ovarian cancer. Be your own advocate.

It is still not recommended to screen a woman for ovarian cancer, based on studies that fail to demonstrate a reduction in death rates; yet, there is a big difference between screening a person without symptoms and testing a person for a disease when they have symptoms. If you have these symptoms, in addition to a rectovaginal exam, ask your doctor about testing such as CA-125 blood test, transvaginal ultrasound and other imaging studies.

To find out more about how to reduce the risks, possibly find this disease earlier or even prevent the disease from occurring, please stay tuned to Catholic Medical Center’s awareness campaign throughout September, including my free community talk at Catholic Medical Center on Monday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. in the Roy Auditorium Level C. (Registration is required; call 626-2626).

And don’t forget to wear teal on Sept. 8!


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