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Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

With the flowering of autumn Jewish holidays consuming our attention, it’s unlikely that many of us have tuned into September as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I wasn’t aware of it either until I listened to NPR yesterday for the first time in several days. Ovarian cancer—often called the “silent killer”—seems to garner less attention than breast cancer whose awareness month is assigned to October, awash with pink ribbons, walks, fundraisers, and other benefits. Indeed, breast cancer seems to dominate the public expression of concern for women’s health. Ovarian cancer, however, is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths for women in the United States, and women with one or more Ashkenazi Jewish grandparent have more than double the odds of being affected. Studies suggest that this may be due to the higher prevalence of the BRCA or breast cancer genes among Jewish women.

Unlike a mammogram or a colonoscopy, there’s no effective screening test to detect ovarian cancer at an early stage when the chance of cure is greatest. Hence, early signs of ovarian cancer may get dismissed by doctors as typical stomach pain from something as benign as indigestion. More than two-thirds of all ovarian cancers are found at an advanced stage when it’s often too late to be treated.

Two of the last century’s most well-known comedians— Gilda Radner and Madeline Kahn, both of whom were Jewish—died of ovarian cancer and hoped that their celebrity status would bring awareness to the disease to help others. Gilda’s Club, the Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry, and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance are among the efforts in which their legacies live on.

That we still do not have standard, reliable screening tests for ovarian cancer suggests that we are still very much in need of initiatives to put permanently women’s health needs on the medical radar. For now, however, we at least have the month of September to encourage each other to take more assertive roles with healthcare professionals and pay more attention to our own bodies.

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4 Comments

Summer 2005 I went to the doctor for pain in my lower left back. After a cat scan, which was supposed to determine if I had kidney stones as they run in my family, a (small) cyst was found on my right ovary. I was told it was probably nothing ( one of those cysts thatr goes aware after a few months) but would schedule an ultra sound a few months later to be sure. Sure enough it was still there and a change in size prompted surgery to remove the cyst-with the possibility to remove the ovary &/or uterus.

My ovary had to be removed. The cyst had engulfed my ovary and was later shown pictures. The ovary was 12 times its normal size. 12 times - that didn't seem small to me.

When I asked the doctor what causes this, I was told it was not known, but if left undiagnosed, it would have been cancerous.

Please ladies, go to the doctor no matter how trivial you might think a symptom is. Keep your scheduled GYN visits, this is important. I missed mine that was scheduled for Jan 2005, which may have found this earlier.

Thank you so much for blogging about this. I lost my 24 year old sister Brittany to ovarian cancer.

There is no test for ovarian cancer. The HPV vaccine is ONLY for cervical cancer. Pap Smears do not detect ovarian cancer only cervical.

My sister's ovarian cancer came from a mucinous tumor on her ovary. Many of us will have cysts, benign tumors, etc but Brittany's contained malignant cells and was 'borderline'. Two years later we lost her.

For more information on awareness and how to fund ovarian cancer research please check out the following:

www.brittanywaldrep.com www.ovariancancercartag.com (Alabama, KY and more soon) www.ovariancancer.org

In addition, there is a new HPV vaccine which many hope may be a valuable tool in addressing this.

my understanding is that HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, has been linked to ovarian cancer if the virus progresses. while we don't yet have a way to screen for ovarian cancer, a pap smear, if abnormal, may indicate that one has the virus and thus can begin to look into treatment to prevent it's progression. this is my base understanding but it may be important to note as an important precautionary measure for women to take. ~thanks for bringing our awareness to this~

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How to cite this page

Namerow, Jordan. "Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month." 19 September 2007. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 23, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/ovarian-cancer>.

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