Tie a Teal Ribbon

by Katerin on July 20, 2013

As we enter October, many women will wear the familiar pink ribbons commemorating breast cancer awareness. Breast cancer continues to be the most common cancer affecting women in the U.S. Fortunately, the greater awareness and funding for research has led to early diagnosis and improvements in screening protocols and treatment regimens. However, many women are not aware that there is a genetic link between breast cancer and the less common, but often more deadly ovarian cancer.

This weekend, VIVE Katerin attended the 1st annual Color of Teal Ovarian Cancer Expo in New York City and had the opportunity to hear from and speak with leading physicians as well as ovarian cancer survivors and advocates. One of the eye opening facts that I learned was that there are two gene markers, known as BRAC 1 and 2 that if present, greatly increase the likelihood that a woman will get breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer in their lifetimes. While ovarian cancer affects women of all races and ethnicities, women of Eastern European Jewish descent are much more likely to carry the BRAC genetic marker. Women who have a family history of ovarian cancer may be tested to see if they have the gene mutation so decisions about proactive treatments up to and including surgical removal of the ovaries may be made.

Unlike breast cancer, which is easy to detect early through regular mammograms, ovarian cancer is much harder to diagnose in women who don't have a family history (and therefore wouldn't be tested for the BRAC gene). Many of the symptoms of ovarian cancer mimic other conditions and even menstrual symptoms. Symptoms include a swollen or bloated abdomen, pressure or pain in the abdomen, difficulty eating, frequent or urgent urination, and a change in bowel movement such as constipation or diarrhea. Additionally, ovarian cysts are quite common and most are benign and go away on their on. So women may go through surgery to have cysts removed that turn out to be non-cancerous once analyzed.

Aside from being vigilant about getting regular gynecological exams and reporting any unusual symptoms, another major step women can take to reduce their likelihood of getting both ovarian cancer and breast cancer, as well as other diseases like heart disease and diabetes is to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.

So this year, wear both a teal ribbon and pink ribbon and check out www.colorofteal.org and www.ocrf.org for more information about ovarian cancer.

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