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March 7, 2013

Ovarian cancer can be Ova’come, speaker says

TERRE HAUTE — Overcoming ovarian cancer is possible. Just ask survivor Nancy Hines.

But getting an early diagnosis of ovarian cancer? That can be a challenge.

Hines encouraged all women at the Women in Leadership Luncheon at St. Mary-of-the-Woods on Wednesday to take their personal health seriously, especially if they are experiencing the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Hines is the co-founder of Ova’coming Together, an ovarian cancer research and support organization. She shared her story, which includes three bouts of breast cancer and one of ovarian cancer, as a testimony to how self-examination and early detection are important in overcoming cancer.

“I was lucky, and I was blessed,” Hines said, “because my doc did what most don’t do.”

And that, she said, was to order a blood protein test, a vaginal ultrasound and visit a gynecological oncologist.

She had been experiencing fatigue and ongoing bloating that prompted her to get an exam, she said. That was in 1994, just a year after she had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

Her ovarian cancer was caught in stage one, and that is rare, Hines said. Most women with ovarian cancer see an average of three doctors before they are diagnosed.

It was during her chemotherapy treatment that Hines met another survivor, Pam Faerber. They joined with another Indianapolis woman, Kai Binford, to form Ova’coming Together to provide survivor and caregiver support and education, networking opportunities, community awareness programs and research funding.

“We needed to give back,” Hines said of founding the ovarian cancer group, “because all we’d ever heard of was women who died.”

In fact, there is no test to detect ovarian cancer. A pap smear does not detect it. Even the blood protein test does not detect it.

“When there is no test, education is best,” Hines said.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, urinary urgency or frequency, back pain, fatigue, indigestion, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities. Symptoms are often vague, however, and easily confused with other illnesses.

Among the risk factors are two or more relatives with ovarian cancer, family history of ovarian, breast or colon cancer, personal history of breast, endometrial or colon cancer, Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, obesity, and long ovulation history or not bearing children.

Hines encouraged women to request testing if they feel it is appropriate.

“You are in charge of your own body. Always remember that,” she said.

For more information on ovarian cancer and Ova’coming Together, go online to www.ovariancancerIN.org.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

 

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