Thousands of Canadian women are living with ovarian cancer.
Sadly, an estimated 2,800 Canadian women will be newly diagnosed with the disease this year.
To raise the profile of this vicious and difficult-to-diagnose cancer, September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
Locally, a group of loving women held a canvas paint party for their Fruitvale friend who has lived with ovarian cancer for three years and is now battling a recurrence.
“One of our best friends has ovarian cancer and is battling this awful disease,” Laurel Moore shared. “We want to make women aware of this disease that whispers to us.”
Moore says the paint party tickets sold out fast, with the event raising $1,200 toward Team Linda’s Walk of Hope. Team Linda had already raised $3,700 for the OCC walk which took place on Sept. 10 in Kelowna.
The Walk of Hope has raised $2.1 million to date, with every dollar fueling year-round support, education, awareness and research for ovarian cancer.
“It was a fantastic evening which brought awareness of ovarian cancer,” said Moore, mentioning the event was held at the Cornerstone Cafe. “It was packed with women for a canvas paint party hosted by Angela Leonard of Empty Canvas … appetizers, wine, door prizes and lots of laughter made the evening a huge success.”
The current overall survival rate is 44 per cent, and notably, there is no reliable screening test for ovarian cancer.
Ovarian Cancer Canada emphasizes that knowledge is power.
Signs and symptoms of the disease are often vague, and can be mistakenly attributed to other causes.
Some of the more common symptoms include bloating, difficulty eating or feeling quickly full, pelvic or abdominal pain and urgency or frequency when urinating.
It is important to see a doctor if symptoms are new, persistent and frequent.
“Research indicates that the symptoms of ovarian cancer may not occur until late stages of the cancer or that listening to them may not improve a woman’s ovarian cancer,” states Ovarian Cancer Canada. “Since there is no screening for ovarian cancer, Ovarian Cancer Canada believes that women should pay attention to their symptoms.
“If a woman is aware of symptoms and communicates these to her health care provider, it may help her to get diagnosed and treated earlier.”
All women are at risk for developing ovarian cancer, however a woman is at higher risk if she is over 50 years of age, has a family history of ovarian, breast, uterine or colorectal cancer, is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, or has a genetic mutation associated with ovarian cancer.
In Canada, the five-year net survival for ovarian cancer is 44 per cent. This means that, on average, about 44 per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive for at least five years.
Mortality rates for ovarian cancer have declined two per cent per year between 2004 and 2012, according to 2017 statistics provided by the Canadian Cancer Society. The ASMR (Age-standardized mortality rate) has fallen more than 25 per cent over the past 30 years, from 11 deaths per 100,000 in 1988 to a projected 8.2 deaths per 100,000 in 2017.
(ASMR is a measure of cancer deaths that is standardized to facilitate comparisons across populations and over time)
The society reports that declines have also been observed elsewhere in North America and in Europe.
This declining mortality rate may be attributed to use of oral contraceptives, which can protect against ovarian cancer, declining use of hormone replacement therapy and improvements in the treatment and management of this disease.
“This cancer whispers to us,” Moore added. “We went with her to the walk last year … when she was diagnosed, she didn’t have a clue it was ovarian cancer.”
The paint party was hosted by Angela Leonard of Empty Canvas