The colour pink shows up every year in October to raise awareness for breast cancer. But lost in the crowd is the colour teal that represents Ovarian Cancer Awareness month which takes place in September.

Ovarian cancer is often known as the ‘silent killer,’ which is why it is important to educate women and raise awareness.

Advocates, organizations and doctors are trying to do their part to help with this issue.

Adriana Quintero, an advocate as well as someone who had a scare with ovarian cancer believes that more women need to be aware of this deadly disease.

In 2014, Quintero went to get an ultrasound at the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary due to pain and bleeding. After a few visits and exams the doctors found something on her ovaries.

“I had 10 cysts on my ovaries, I had to have another operation to remove them.  After that operation everything was finally okay.”

Luckily for Quintero the cysts were not cancerous. But when it comes being aware of ovarian cancer, 52 year old Quintero admits that she did not know much about the disease at first.

Although there are many fundraising events and support that help women change the course of this disease, Quintero feels that this disease needs to be more known to women.

“I feel that the health community should approach more schools and Universities.  They should have more information out there so women will know more about it.”

The five-year survival rate for the disease is just 45.6 percent, compared to breast cancer’s roughly 90 percent.

According to Ovarian Cancer Canada, an estimated 2,800 Canadian women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016. An estimated 1,750 will die from the disease.

Inforgraphic containing information on what women need to know about Ovarian Cancer and preventing it. Graphic by Hillary Ollenberger

Dr. Greg Nelson is a gynaecologic oncologist at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, who treats women with ovarian cancer.

Nelson also believes that ovarian cancer is less talked about when compared to other cancers.

“It is often characterized as a ‘silent disease’ until it is diagnosed because the symptoms often overlap with those that occur in women who do not have cancer.”

Nelson feels that it is important for women to be aware of this disease

“Early diagnosis is associated with better prognosis, if the disease is caught at an early stage there is a higher chance of cure.”

Nelson says that women should start with their family doctor.

“If they experience new persistent symptoms,like bloating or pain, [they should] request a pelvic ultrasound. This test will tell if there is anything worrisome happening in the pelvis.”

As for raising awareness, Nelson explains that women need to know that it is OK to seek help.

But how are women to seek help if they do not know that there is an issue? Ovarian Cancer Canada is the only national charity that is dedicated to support women with ovarian cancer.

A charity event that is doing their part to raise awareness is the Lady Ball —  a larger campaign that is using humour to help raise awareness.

So far the Lady Ball has raised $1.35 million in Toronto, Calgary, Halifax and Vancouver. This is the event’s sixth year running.

Ovarian cancer kills around five Canadian women a day and charities like the Lady Ball are doing their part in lowering that number.

“I believe that women should know more about their body and be more educated. With cancer situations like that we should be prepared … we are all exposed to cancer” -Adriana Quintero

Luckily in the future finding a cure for this disease will only get easier.

Nelson says there are new tailored treatments — special chemotherapies — for ovarian cancer.

There is also a new program at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre where we combine aggressive surgical removal of the ovarian cancer in combination with heated intra abdominal chemotherapy.

Like Quintero and Nelson explain, being aware and having routine check-ups will lessen the chance of this happening to you or someone you know.

“I believe that women should know more about their body and be more educated. With cancer situations like that we should be prepared … we are all exposed to cancer,” says Quintero.

“Cancer doesn’t wait for you to prepare yourself for it.”

hollenberger@cjournal.ca

Editor: Nathan Woolridge | nwoolridge@cjournal.ca