Just last week, Tony Steward of the Buffalo Bills announced that his fiancé had passed away after losing her battle with ovarian cancer. Brittany Burns was just 26-years-old, and she had been diagnosed with a rare form of the cancer not more than two months prior to her passing. Ovarian cancer affects tens of thousands of women in the US every year, with 21,000 new cases diagnoses last year, and 14,000 women lost their battles with the disease, putting this specific form of cancer as the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women.
Brittany Burns was younger than I, and the sweet blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty was most likely not the first image that pops into your head when you hear the term “ovarian cancer.” While the majority of women who develop the disease are older, doctors are still discovering it in young women. Since genetics are a major factor, Lauren Streicher, M.D., an associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has placed much emphasis on women paying attention to their family history.
Women who carry the mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes associated with breast cancer are at a higher risk than those who do not, even though they only make up about 20% of all ovarian cancer cases.
As I have stressed in earlier posts, it is highly imperative that women — yes, even young women — pay close attention to their bodies. Monitor and record any and all changes, and if something doesn’t seem right, do not ignore it. Making a trip to your doctor or gynecologist may seem inconvenient, but there are plenty of shortcuts and conveniences out there nowadays to facilitate the process.
Another thing we should all be doing, along with teaching young girls from the start, is educating ourselves on the signs and symptoms that may indicate a problem. Knowing how to then communicate these signs clearly to your healthcare provider is key.
Two symptoms that may be easy to overlook, especially since young women are prone to menstrual irregularity, are persistent abdominal bleeding and urinating more than usual. These symptoms can be vague, which is why I urge you to track your health! Honestly, with so many apps out there that allow you to be specific and consistent, doing so is really not that difficult anymore.
While it may just be nothing, the majority of women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer have reported experiencing abdominal pressure, bloating, and frequent urination. Survival of women with ovarian cancer is confined to stage 1 (90% survival rate), meaning catching this disease early is absolutely key to successfully battling it. Once it has spread to the abdominal cavity, stage 3, survival is less than 40%.
One of the most successful ways to lower one’s risk of ovarian cancer is to use hormonal bitch control. Data suggests using the pill can decrease the likelihood of developing the disease, and in some cases, it can decrease by as much as 50%.
The disease is not detected via Pap smear, so even if you are making your regular trips to the gyno, it’s absolutely imperative you have your own health report to give. This means being able to properly communicate any odd symptoms you may have — even if it ends up being nothing. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight is also important. It allows for one to better notice abdominal bloating earlier than someone who is overweight. We should always be mindful as to what we are putting into our bodies — and that includes tampons!
The most important thing to take away from this is that we need to be listening to our bodies.
Make sure you track those periods, ladies. Any unusual activity is reason to pick up that phone and call your doctor. It’s never a bad thing to be overly cautious when it comes to maintaining our beautiful bodies.