On Cancer Survivors Day, Lay the Groundwork for Women to Begin Thriving

July 7, 2016

Cancer survivors and their supporters are gathering in communities throughout the world today to commemorate the 29th annual National Cancer Survivors Day. But demonstrating support is not the only purpose behind these events.

These advocates also are working to raise awareness of the issues faced by cancer survivors and arrange networking and support among participating survivors.

group of young women on coffee break, enjoying in discussion

The Impact of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is diagnosed based on stage of progression, with more than half of diagnoses occurring in Stage III. In Stage III, cancer cells are no longer confined to the pelvis and have spread to nearby lymph nodes or the outside of the liver — or both.

Within Stage III, cases fall into one of three subcategories:

Stage IIIA: The tumor primarily exists in the pelvis, but microscopic metastasis has occurred, extending into the omentum or abdominal peritoneal surfaces.

Stage IIIB: The tumor is primarily confined to the pelvis, but metastasis beyond the pelvis is greater than microscopic but less than 2 centimeters.

Stage IIIC: The tumor exists in the pelvis, with metastasis outside the pelvis greater than 2 centimeters.

The timing of diagnosis directly impacts the survival rate for the women affected. About 75 percent of ovarian cancer patients will still be alive one year after diagnosis, but the prognosis decreases from there. The five-year survival rate for women diagnosed in Stage III is 34 percent; however, those diagnosed in IIIA have a higher five-year survival rate of 45 percent, while only 35 percent of those diagnosed in Stage IIIC are alive five years later. Those younger than 65 have higher survival rates than those over 65 years old.

The Women Behind the Disease

Real women are affected every day by ovarian cancer and pelvic masses. In many cases, the physical and mental issues don’t always end when the illness goes into remission.

Sherry Pollex, who shares her story on KnowPelvicMass.com, suffered from debilitating pelvic pain for months while she was passed from specialist to specialist. After being diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and harmless ovarian cysts and finding no relief from the treatment offered, Sherry reached out to a family friend in medicine who ordered a CT scan. The scan revealed peritoneal carcinomatosis, a rare cancer that had spread throughout her abdomen. After a radical hysterectomy and removal of her appendix, part of her stomach, part of her transverse colon, and both her lower and peritoneal omentum, Sherry survived.

Shannon Miller, an Olympic gymnast who also shares her story on KnowPelvicMass.com, allowed the hustle and bustle of daily life to distract her from her symptoms. She finally scheduled an exam but then nearly canceled it at the last minute. At that appointment, her doctor found a 7-centimeter cyst on her ovary that was later identified as cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy, Shannon is now cancer free.

Sherry and Shannon are passionate about educating women on the early warning signs of ovarian cancer, empowering them to advocate for themselves, and connecting them with a network of supporting women who understand the struggles both during and after the battle against cancer.

Resources for Support

The OVA1 multi-biomarker test from Vermillion, Inc. measures multiple indicators to assign levels of cancer risk in women diagnosed with a pelvic mass. Before the OVA1 lab test, all masses were removed surgically for evaluation, and when cancer was diagnosed, another procedure was typically required. Now, women and their doctors can make informed decisions about surgery based on the FDA-cleared OVA1 test.

In addition, Vermillion, Inc. aims to provide resources and support for ovarian cancer survivors. By partnering with advocacy organizations, Vermillion connects at-risk women, those receiving cancer treatment, and survivors to form vast support networks and keep women strong. A few of the patient advocacy organizations that Vermillion partners with include the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Bright Pink, and FORCE. Vermillion promises to support women with ovarian cancer through continued advocacy and programs.

Bottom Line

While cancer may not be preventable, early detection and diagnosis save lives. These simple steps may save yours:

  • Make your health a priority. Never ignore warning signs.
  • Seek treatment early and advocate for yourself.
  • Rely on a support network to get you through.

By connecting women and providing them with a platform to share their stories, Vermillion, Inc. increases the chances of early diagnosis in future cases by empowering women to safeguard themselves, take action sooner, and thrive in their everyday lives.