When Louisa McGregor was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, she and her sister, Pamela Esposito-Amery decided to stand up and do something about it.
Together, they started a foundation to raise awareness about the deadly disease, Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer, or T.E.A.L. the following year.
They were both shocked to learn that the prognosis for this cancer is so poor because of the lack of knowledge and tools to detect the disease early when survival chances are best.
“We had difficulty finding a walk for ovarian cancer so we just made one ourselves,” Esposito-Amery said.
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women. In the United States alone, there will be approximately 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer each year, and about 15,500 women will die from the disease. It is an insidious disease that can strike without warning or cause.
Esposito-Amery said the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose—which is why it is commonly referred to as “the silent killer.”
“Women go to the doctor and get a pap smear and think they are getting checked for ovarian cancer, but they’re not,” she said. “A pap smear is not checking for anything ovarian cancer related.”
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
• Vague but persistent and unexplained gastrointestinal complaints such as gas, nausea, and indigestion
• Abdominal bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, and/or feeling of fullness
• Frequency and/or urgency of urination
• Unexplained change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)
• Unexplained weight gain or loss
• Unusual fatigue
• Shortness of breath
• New and unexplained abnormal postmenopausal bleeding
There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer, but there are tests that can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms. But despite this fact, patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages, and only 45 percent survive longer than five years. Only 19 percent of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
However, when ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92 percent.
Louisa lost her cancer battle, but today, Pamela honors her memory by continuing with their mission to put an end to ovarian cancer. The T.E.A.L. organization has successfully completed its third annual walk this year, and already has plans in the works for next year. Proceeds from this year's walk went to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
For more information, visit TEALwalk.org.