Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Teal Toes for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

My toes are ready for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Are yours?

New UK Study on Link Between Ovarian Cancer and Ovarian Cysts

More testing is needed, but a new UK study shows that postmenopausal women who suffer from ovarian cysts do not have an increased risk of cancer.

See the article in the Health24 link.
Ovarian cysts and Ovarian cancer

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What Causes Ovarian Cancer?

Doctors aren't sure what causes Ovarian cancer, but some studies have indicated the following as risk factors:

  • Family history of breast, ovarian or colorectal cancers
    • Increased risk if your mother, sister or daughter has/had the disease
    • Risk increases the more relatives you have with Ovarian cancer
  • Not having children and/or not breastfeeding
    • Women who have had children decrease their risk. This risk reduces even further with each child they carry
  • Obesity
    • Obese women (over 30 BMI) have higher risk
  • Smoking
  • Fertility drugs
    • Some studies show that using the fertility drug Clomid for more than one year can increase your risk of developing Ovarian tumors.
  • Hormone replacement therapy
    • Women taking estrogen after menopause have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer
  • Age - specifically women who have gone through menopause
    • Half of all Ovarian cancers are found in women over the age of 63
  • Talcum powder
    • Talcum powder applied directly to the genital area or on a sanitary napkin may be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) to the ovaries 

These are not all of the risk factors, but something to get you thinking.  I never thought about "risk factors" when it came to cancer. The obvious is smoking, but not all smokers get lung cancer and not everyone with lung cancer is/was a smoker. 

More information can be found here:
Web MD. Risk Factors for Ovarian Cancer
ACS Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

Share this information with someone you love.
One step at a time is all we can do. It all starts with the first step.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Importance of Testing for Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer because it is not usually caught at an early stage, as was true with my mother.  It is something that you must be vigilant about if you have any of the signs or symptoms of Ovarian cancer.  You must also be vigilant if you have a family history of either breast cancer or ovarian cancer, as there is an increased risk of you having the disease.

Earlier I talked about the warning signs of Ovarian cancer:
Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
Loss of appetite or feeling full quickly
Pelvic discomfort or pain
Lack of energy
Abdominal pressure, fullness or bloating
Constipation and/or increased frequency of urination
Low back pain

Now I want to talk about the tests that are used to find if you are at risk for Ovarian cancer:

CA 125 is a blood test measures the amount of the protein CA 125 (cancer antigen 125) in your blood. It isn't always a reliable form of testing as it may be missed in early Ovarian Cancer detection, but for someone at high risk due to family history it may still be a good idea to have it checked.

Not all insurance companies cover the cost of this test. Talk to your doctor and insurance company about what is covered.  It can be added to any routine blood test.

Please read this link for detailed information about this test.
CA 125 Test

BRACAnalysis is a genetic test that can let you know your risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) by identifying a BRCA gene mutation.  Most insurance companies will pay for a portion of the test if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancers. My insurance company covered it completely.

My mother's oncologist did tell me that if you get a negative result on your BRACAnalysis, it may be a false negative and the test would have to be done again.  Insurance companies may not cover the second test.

Please read this link for more information.

Methods that doctors use to diagnose Ovarian cancer are:
Pelvic exam
Transvaginal ultrasound
Surgery to remove samples of tissue for testing

More information can be found on the MayoClinic website.
Ovarian Cancer Tests and Diagnosis

Overall, it is extremely important to speak up and talk to your doctor about what you are feeling.  If you have any of these symptoms, call and make an appointment.

When my mom started seeing doctors in 2008, they gave her antacids because her stomach always felt "full".  They weren't aware or didn't notice the symptom of Ovarian cancer. Finally, she saw the episode of the View that talked about Ovarian Cancer and the CA 125 test.  She called her doctor and asked for the CA 125 test and when the results came back extremely high, that is when they scheduled the transvaginal ultrasound and found all the tumors. 

One of the reasons I started this blog is so that we can raise awareness and money to help fund early detection of Ovarian Cancer.  It's only the first step in this very important journey.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Gene Therapy May Help Ovarian Cancer

Gene therapy has been used to treat three patients with leukemia and has successfully wiped out the disease. 

Two of them are still cancer free a year after treatment and the third is improved, but still showing some signs of the cancer.

What is exciting is that researchers want to try this technique on other forms of cancer like pancreatic, prostate, brain & ovarian cancers.

Read more in the link below.

New Technique Used to Treat Cancer

It is just a start, but that's what we need - a first step.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Legislation

This was on the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Web site.

new florida law educates about ovarian cancer

New legislation was signed into law by Gov. Scott that should allow for easier access to eductational materials about gynecological cancers in Florida. Hopefully this is just a first step in a long journey.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pictures of My Beautiful Mother

Mom in 1975
Mom with her grandsons in 2008
Mom with her granddaughter in 2010

Your Body is a Song

Don't worry I'm not about to get all John Mayer up in here. I'd like to talk about the scientific side of whats going on inside the body. I read this very simplified idea a few years ago and thought it was interesting: Your body is a song. On a CD a song is a pattern of code called a .wav file. When you create a digital copy of it you get a perfect copy of the song. Then someone created .mp3's, a way to copy the song that takes out parts of the code that represents overlapping sound frequencies from different instruments to compress the file. Sometimes a file gets corrupted and you get a song that does not copy correctly. On an iPod or your car stereo it is easy to miss but on a expensive, well designed sound system you will hear the distinction.

So how does this apply to us? Think of your DNA as the .wav file. Your DNA is a pattern of code that tells the cells in your body how they are supposed to act. Cells die and are regenerated every day according to the DNA pattern. Sometimes a cell doesn't get the instructions correctly. There are a lot of reasons this can happen, but if the cell doesn't get the correct instructions it can mutate or die without being replaced. Parts of the code are left out, kind of like .mp3's. Cancer cells mutate, meaning they can grow, double or share the mutation with other cells. There are two types of mutations: benign and malignant. When a group of cells mutate but stop growing and don't travel in the body its called benign. When they grow out of control or travel and multiply they are considered malignant and can be very deadly. This is a very simplified example of what is going on, for a more detailed explanation you might want to check out this article.

Because of the way that cancer cells multiply early detection is the key to fighting it. Cancers that are close to the surface like skin, mouth, testicular, and breast cancer are sometimes easier to see or be felt earlier. The opposite of that are cancers that more interior, like prostrate, lymphoma, leukemia, and ovarian are harder to see in the beginning, which is why they are so deadly. By the time that symptoms are apparent it's often in stage III or IV. Going back to our song analogy, think of an MRI or other medical test as the more expensive sound system. All cancers can be deadly but finding them early is the key to getting treatment and stopping them. In our next few posts we will talk about testing and ways you can start fighting right now.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

The scientists always call Ovarian Cancer the silent cancer or the cancer that "whispers".  We learned the hard way.  My mom knew something was wrong and kept going to doctors for six long months to get tests and find out the reason she didn't feel well.  All the doctors said not to worry and it there wasn't a problem.  She was dismissed by the doctors that she had been seeing.

One morning in May 2008, she was watching "The View" on TV and someone spoke about the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer and she sat up and said "those are my symptoms".  She immediately called the doctor and told them she thought she had ovarian cancer and wanted to be tested.

After what seemed like a lifetime of running tests (blood tests, ultrasounds, etc.), it was confirmed that she did have the disease.  Unfortunately, she was told by the doctors that she only had three to four months to live - six months at the most. 

I want to give you a list of the symptoms.  They seem like symptoms that any woman can have for any reason, but you want to listen to your body.  Don't delay in talking to your doctor if you are having any of the symptoms, especially if they are getting worse.

Warning Signs:
Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
Loss of appetite or feeling full quickly
Pelvic discomfort or pain
Lack of energy
Abdominal pressure, fullness or bloating
Constipation and/or increased frequency of urination
Low back pain

These are not all the warning signs, but they are important signs to recognize.  Please take the time to listen to your body when it speaks to you.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our Mission

My mom was 56 when she was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer.   She went through numerous rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries that were meant to help. She was in a coma for 6 weeks. She survived for two years and passed away in December of 2010.

She was a strong woman. She had the best laugh and the best hugs. That's how I want to remember her.

I miss her every day and I don't think that there is enough information out there about Ovarian Cancer so I've decided to start this blog. My goal is to promote awareness, provide information, share inspiring stories and resources to those looking for help. 

I remember researching on the internet for anything regarding Ovarian Cancer, but I could only find scattered information. This has to change. 

I want to hear from others who have supported those with Ovarian Cancer (other gyn cancers or any cancers), those who have lived through these cancers and who are survivors. Anyone who believes in getting the word out like I do.