September marks Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Learn more about the women who beat the odds and overcame this disease referred to by many in the medical community as a “silent killer.”
The silent killer
One in 78 women will develop ovarian cancer in her lifetime yet despite its prevalence, this disease is often called a silent killer. It’s the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women ages 35 to 74, according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. So what makes it so silent? A routine pap smear doesn’t pick up on this cancer, which means it can go undetected. In addition, ovaries are deeply entrenched in the abdominal chamber, making it difficult to detect cancerous cells inside them or on their outer layer, at least within the disease’s earliest stages.
Symptoms include abdominal bloating, weight loss, quickly feeling full, constipation (or other changes in bowel routine), frequently needing to urinate, and these other symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
In terms of treatment, Mayo Clinic explains that, for ovarian cancer, this typically involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. The extent of treatment depends on how far the disease has progressed by the time a patient has been diagnosed and, as with any medical condition, early detection is key. The five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is close to 47 percent.
At 25 years old How I Met Your Mother actress Cobie Smulders was given life-changing news: A diagnosis of “borderline” cancer, which she describes to Parade as meaning it wasn’t quite malignant and it wasn’t quite benign. Smulders underwent surgery more than once to remove the cancer. Now she shares her experience with ovarian cancer to raise awareness about the disease and the need for early intervention. These are the 14 things ob-gyns really wish you understood about ovarian cancer.
Movie and television star Kathy Bates, whose list of credits include Misery and Titanic, was diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer at age 55. She took action with great speed, having surgery and undergoing nine months of chemotherapy. Bates returned to work immediately, at the time choosing to stay mum about her health. Today she is vocal about her personal ordeal and works with campaigns like Stand Up To Cancer to raise both awareness and funding for research.