“Ovarianerds:” Noun; People Who Are Dedicated To, and Care a Ridiculous Amount About, Ovaries.
Wow, did we just say that? Yes, we did. As uncomfortable as the word might seem to others, in our world, “ovaries” are the focus, and accordingly, the topic of regular (all) discussion. We like ovaries. In fact, we LOVE them. Some might say that we’re fanatics about ovaries. That’s probably true. Perhaps even more interesting to us, however, are the women to whom they belong. If you’re a woman, that’s you. For our female staff and researchers, that’s us too. Because roughly half of the world’s population is comprised of women, and ovaries (among other features of women) are unique to the female gender, we at the Ovarian Cancer Institute think that they’re a pretty big deal. And because you’re either a woman, you were birthed by one, you’re married to one, or because you’re a sibling, father, brother, friend or co-worker to one, we think that ovaries are a pretty big deal to you as well, whether you already knew that, or you’re just now easing into that realization. J However you got here, we’re glad you’re here, and we’re glad that you love ovaries (now) too!
Because we love ovaries so much, we exceptionally dislike (read: hate) ovarian cancer. In the United States alone, more than 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed annually. That statistic makes us neither warm nor fuzzy, but instead, it really bothers us. Considered in light of the fact that it is often discovered in the last stages, and the battle against it long and grueling for everyone involved, and our disdain for “OC” (we don’t even like to say it…) soars to new heights. Angry we are, but the outcome- and solution-oriented we must be. Instead of jousting at the “them,” “they” or “it” responsible for OC’s insidiousness (a topic that we’re equally passionate about, but won’t discuss in this post), we’ve discovered that detecting the disease early oftentimes makes all the difference in defeating it once and for all. Our goal? Save lives! Cancer prevention! Our methodology? Researching and implementing early detection tests, processes and systems. The outcome? Healthier ladies in our lives, and fewer of them succumbing to something that we can beat if we discover early enough. The outcome? Everyone wins! Don’t you love it when everyone wins?
Little is known about what causes OC and, currently, there is no screening test for the disease on the market. Often misunderstood as an OC detection test, the Pap smear (which most women receive at least annually) indicates cervical cancer, but it passes right by OC. While OC does in fact present symptoms, those symptoms are oftentimes vague and mimic that of benign conditions (gastrointestinal disorders, and other fun but less harmful things), making them extremely difficult to detect. So what’s the takeaway? You might have OC long before you realize that you do. While age is a factor in determining a woman’s susceptibility to OC, it is not THE factor! Although OC occurs more in women over 50 than it does in women under 50, it has been diagnosed in teenage and post-menopausal women alike. We’re not alarmists here, but we also can’t gloss over the fact that our misunderstanding of OC has made us less vigilant in screening for it. That’s a trend that we’d like to reverse and why we’re so dedicated to cancer prevention.
So, that was a lot. You’ve learned about OC, you’ve learned that it’s hard to detect and that it’s not being detected well enough, early enough. You’ve also learned that we’re fanatics about cancer prevention, and we’re working hard to do something about it. Like every good organization, ours has a mission and it’s simple: “To develop innovative research leading to earlier detection and more effective control of ovarian cancer; to investigate newer modalities of treatment; and to heighten women’s awareness of the symptoms of, and treatment options for, this disease.” You don’t have to be an ovarianerd to care about this stuff or to do something about it, however. You just have to love women! Be a voice for awareness. Encourage loved ones to know and understand their family’s medical history. If there’s a history of ovarian cancer in a woman’s immediate family, that woman is at a higher risk of developing the disease. Some women are taking aggressive precautions. When Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie’s mother died of breast cancer in 2007, Angelina elected to complete a BRCA analysis which revealed that she was a carrier for the genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer. As such, Angelina was able to take surgical precautionary measures to prevent the occurrence of either cancer. Help us educate women about ovarian cancer symptoms so that lives can be saved early and without painful, expensive treatments. Ovarianerds unite! Host an event, donate money for research, or join our board. As a member of our team, you can have fun AND make a difference for cancer prevention. You could very well do something now that might someday impact a woman you love.