Ovarian Cancer: knowing the symptoms below the belt

Local News

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — According to the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance, approximately 350 Colorado women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer yearly, and about 220 die each year. So, to support the women fighting and those who have survived, September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

And the sad fact about ovarian cancer is that most women are diagnosed in late stages because the symptoms are commonly confused with the symptoms women experience during monthly menstruation; that is bloating, appetite changes, abdominal pain, or bathroom struggles. Still, doctors say attacking the cancer in its early stages is your best bet for survival. And according to the American Cancer Society, women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Stage 1 have up to a 90% chance of survival, but unfortunately, only about 15% of women are diagnosed then.

In addition, there is no official screening test, so women are diagnosed after their ovarian tissue is looked under a microscope, usually after surgery or a biopsy. Dr. Alicia Swink is an oncologist at St. Mary’s Hospital , and she says that ovarian cancer can affect women of any age; however, it is more common with older women and women with a family history of ovarian cancer, as well as women who are infertile and have endometriosis.

Still, Jeanene Smith, a Colorado woman with no genetic risk, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her early 40s, and to the news, she said, “I am either going to survive, or I am going to die.” And Jeanene fought to live. She is 21 years cancer free, but the road to recovery was not easy.

Dr. Swink says the typical treatment for ovarian cancer almost always includes surgery and a form or chemotherapy. So through the challenging time, the support from friends and family was crucial for Smith. However, Smith says the same support is not the case for a lot of other women.

Therefore, Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance created a professional led support group so no woman has to fight ovarian cancer alone. The group is available to all Colorado women, and because of COVID-19, the group is held virtually.

Doctors everywhere say they want to do more to catch this deadly disease earlier on, but until then they says that women need to trust their gut, and they should see a doctor for any persistent problem below the belt.

KREX 5 / Fox 4 continues to support Ovarian Cancer Awareness by wearing teal.

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