Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Guest Post: Wear Teal Day for Ovarian Cancer Awareness by Dr. Sandra Cesario

Friday, September 6, 2013 is WEAR TEAL DAY to increase awareness about ovarian cancer!

Teal is the color that represents ovarian cancer, the most lethal of women’s cancers.  Just as the display of pink ribbons in October reminds us of breast cancer, the prominent exhibition of teal during the month of September is intended to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and the urgent need for more research in this area.  Dr. Sandra Cesario, Professor in the College of Nursing at TWU in Houston, made a personal commitment to spreading the word about this deadly disease following the death of her 29 year old daughter, Anna, in 2009. Each year since that time, colleagues of Dr Cesario proudly wear teal on the first Friday in September to remember Anna and share the important message of ovarian cancer awareness with students, co-workers, friends, and family.

This year, Wear Teal Day will be on Friday, September 6. For those of you in Houston, the Houston City Hall will be lit in teal in memory of those who have lost their lives to ovarian cancer.  The view is particularly stunning from the Ferris wheel at the downtown Aquarium.

One in 71 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. With early detection, about 93% will survive longer than 5 years after diagnosis. However, only 15% of ovarian cancers are caught during this early stage of disease leading to the overall high death rate. Every year, 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the US and 16,000 women will die.  Worldwide, more than 204,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are identified annually, accounting for approximately 4% of all cancers diagnosed in women, with the highest rates reported in the US and Europe.

If you experience any of the following symptoms more than 3 times per week for longer than 3 months, please consult your health care provider to be evaluated for ovarian cancer:
  • Bloating 
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary urgency or frequency

Right now there is no general population screening tool to identify ovarian cancer during its earliest stages.  However, research is underway to identify genetic markers to help identify women at the highest risk. Chemotherapy drugs and delivery methods are improving but, to date, have only led to an increase of a few months in length of survival. Surgical techniques are improving. And chemical assays, such as ChemoFx(R), are aiding in the identification of the most effective form of chemotherapy before treatment even begins.

A study just published in Cancer, describes a promising approach to the early detection of ovarian cancer that uses an older blood test in a new way.  MD Anderson researchers found that evaluating the change in blood levels of CA-125 over time shows promise as a screening tool for early-stage ovarian cancer. Historically, a CA-125 value greater that 30 was a red flag for the development of ovarian cancer.  However, the recent study discovered that annual measurements of the CA-125 indicated that changes over time, based on a mathematical formula called Risk of Ovarian Cancer Algorithm (ROCA), can also identify women who are in the earliest, most treatable stages of ovarian cancer.

In Pennsylvania, a fascinating interdisciplinary research collaborative has been formed.  Several disciplines have combined their efforts to investigate the use of canine olfaction, along with chemical and nanotechnology analysis, to detect early-stage human ovarian cancer. This group has demonstrated that dogs CAN sniff out ovarian cancer!

So progress is being made – there is hope! For more information or to make a donation to this important cause, please consider the following organizations:

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
OCRF is the largest independent organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to funding ovarian cancer research-- and to finding a cure. Through our three active research programs, we fund the best researchers and the most innovative projects

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance is the foremost advocate for women with ovarian cancer in the United States. To advance the interests of women with ovarian cancer, the Alliance advocates at a national level for increases in research funding for the development of an early detection test, improved health care practices, and life-saving treatment protocols. The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance educates health care professionals and raises public awareness of the risks, signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
The mission of the NOCC is to raise awareness and promote education about ovarian cancer. The Coalition is committed to improving the survival rate and quality of life for women with ovarian cancer.

Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma
In 2001, the Oklahoma Legislature charged OU with providing statewide leadership in cancer research, prevention and education, and treatment and seeking designation as a National Cancer Institute (NCI) comprehensive cancer center designation. A major recruiting effort was launched in 2009 to bring nationally-recognized cancer physicians and researchers to Oklahoma. In 2011, the Oklahoma Cancer Institute opened and there is a beautiful gynecologic-oncology waiting area named in Anna's memory.

Sandra K. Cesario, PhD, RNC, FAAN

PhD Program Coordinator and Professor
College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University
6700 Fannin Street
Houston, TX 77030-2343

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