Eighteen years ago the wife of a highly respected Seattle oncologist died from ovarian cancer. I didn’t know Marsha Rivkin, but the people who did tell me she was dynamo. She left a hole in the heart of her husband, Saul, and her five daughter, so they planned an event in her honor and to raise money to fight the typically fatal cancer that took their mother and spouse.
Seventeen years ago, after first starting a foundation in Marsha’s name, they started a fundraising race and walk in partnership with Swedish Medical Center, a major healthcare provider in downtown Seattle. Rain or shine hundreds turned out and millions of dollars were raised.
This year, on a sparking, picture-perfect Seattle summer Sunday, 3,000 people gathered for the annual run. I was among them. There were scores of teams honoring people stricken with the disease, as well as ovarian cancer survivors and many dedicated doctors and nurses – all in running shoes. Together they raised more than $500,000 this year. It was a celebration of hope that ovarian cancer could be detected earlier and cured. Marsha would have been very proud, and Dr. Rivkin and his daughters are to be honored for starting something that could make a big difference.
The statistics are not good: The long-term survival rate for ovarian cancer is currently only 10 percent even though it is estimated that 90 percent of women could survive with early detection. And while ovarian cancer represents only three percent of all cancers affecting women, it is the fifth leading cancer killer in women. This year alone, 15,460 women in the U.S. are expected to die from ovarian cancer. Research has been slow to show promise and the amount of research has not been extensive.
However, some funding from the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research (http://marsharivkin.org/) has helped identify subtle signs of early ovarian cancer, giving doctors reason to do more detailed diagnostics, spot the cancer, and give women a fighting cancer to beat the disease.
Not long ago I interviewed one of the lead researchers and the lessons in this program are ones every woman should take to heart and discuss with her doctor: early detection can make all the difference. (Go to: http://www.patientpower.info/program/update-on-gynecologic-cancers-prevention-diagnosis-and-treatment?r=byExpert&oid=f31d3740-555a-11df-81ad00262d1ccbec )
While lung cancer is our biggest cancer killer, and heart disease is the biggest health threat to women overall, do not overlook ovarian cancer. By being vigilant about subtle changes in your body, and knowing the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, your chances of catching the disease at earlier, more treatable stages are vastly increased.
About the author: Andrew Schorr is a medical journalist, cancer survivor and founder of Patient Power, a one-of-a-kind company dedicated to bringing in-depth information to patients with cancer and chronic illness. Audio and video programs, as well as transcripts, help patients make informed decisions to support their health in partnership with their medical team. Patient Power is at www.PatientPower.info and on Facebook. Schorr is also the author of “The Web Savvy Patient: An Insider's Guide to Navigating the Internet When Facing Medical Crisis." http://www.websavvypatient.com/
Edited by Shannon Koehle