LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 3, 2013) — The University of Kentucky "sees blue" every day, but the UK Markey Cancer Center is taking on a different shade this September. Throughout the month, the Markey campus will be adorned with teal ribbons to raise awareness for ovarian cancer.
The colorful décor is part of Turn The Towns Teal, a national campaign founded in 2007 by ovarian cancer patient Gail MacNeil. The campaign seeks to raise awareness of the deadly disease, which is diagnosed in more than 22,000 women each year in the U.S.
Markey's participation in this year's Turn the Towns Teal marks the first time a Lexington location has joined the event. Members of the Bluegrass Ovarian Cancer Support (BOCS) group set up the ribbons and signs this morning.
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the U.S. Classic symptoms of ovarian cancer include pelvic or abdominal pain/discomfort, vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets, frequency and/or urgency of urination, unexplained changes in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss/gain, ongoing fatigue, back pain, menstrual changes, and pain during intimacy.
Because there are no established early detection tests and these symptoms are subtle and often misdiagnosed, most women have advanced disease by the time they consult a physician. The cure rate for advanced ovarian cancer is low: about 10 percent.
"There is no test for ovarian cancer; a Pap test does not detect it," said Kathy Tabb, a 20-year ovarian cancer survivor and member of BOCS. "Women need to know the symptoms. Hopefully these teal ribbons will bring about that awareness."
However, if ovarian cancer is detected early and has not metastasized, the 5-year survival rate is 94 percent. Since 1987, Markey's Dr. John van Nagell, Jr. has led the Ovarian Cancer Screening Program, a study looking into whether transvaginal sonography (TVS) could be an effective means of early ovarian cancer detection.
Since the study began, more than 235,000 free screening examinations have been provided to more than 41,000 Kentucky women, and women from every county in the state have participated in this program. Through the screenings, nearly 450 ovarian tumors and more than 75 malignancies have been detected. Currently, screenings are being performed at six locations throughout the state, including Lexington, Elizabethtown, Somerset, Prestonsburg, Maysville and Paducah.
By "tealing" Markey, BOCS members hope to not only raise awareness about ovarian cancer in general, but also encourage women to be proactive and participate in the Ovarian Cancer Screening Program.
"I know of several women whose ovarian cancers were discovered through this unique screening program, and these women are alive today because of early diagnosis and treatment by a gynecologic oncologist," said Sue Jacobs, a 5-year ovarian cancer survivor treated at Markey and member of BOCS. "The gynecologic oncologists at the UK Markey Cancer Center are some of the most dedicated and supportive professionals I have ever encountered. I am thrilled that Markey is supporting the Turn the Towns Teal event and increasing ovarian cancer awareness in the community!"
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