News Release

September 6, 2007

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

UConn Health Center Joins Efforts to Educate Women about New Ovarian Cancer Symptoms

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

FARMINGTON, CONN. – The Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center and the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) announce the first national consensus on ovarian cancer symptoms. Ovarian cancer is the most deadly reproductive cancer and is often referred to as the “silent killer” due to the common belief that there are no warning signs or symptoms.

However, in response to ovarian cancer survivors who long held the belief there were common symptoms of the disease, research now demonstrates that the following symptoms are much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population. These symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their doctor, preferably a gynecologist.

“We know that when women are diagnosed in Stage I of the disease, it is 90 percent curable,” says Carolyn Runowicz, M.D., director of the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center and immediate past president of the American Cancer Society. The consensus agreement on common symptoms was initiated during her leadership at the Cancer Society.

Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women. At present, about 80 percent of these cancers are not diagnosed in their early stages, leading to a reduced chance of survival.

The Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the Health Center is led by Molly Brewer, M.D., a nationally recognized expert in ovarian cancer. Under Dr. Brewer’s leadership, the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center is implementing a Women’s Cancer Prevention Program. “Until recently, we thought of ovarian cancer as the silent killer,” says Brewer. “These new studies show us that 95 percent of women have symptoms with late stage disease. What we now need to study is if knowledge and early recognition of these symptoms will result in earlier diagnosis and improved survival.”

Unlike cervical cancer, there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, making symptom recognition and regular pelvic examinations the primary ways to detect the cancer early. It is estimated that more than 22,000 women will be told they have ovarian cancer this year and more than 15,000 will die from this deadly cancer.

“GCF is grateful to the many professional and advocacy organizations, and survivors who made this consensus a reality,” said Karl C. Podratz, MD, PhD, GCF chairman. “At GCF we say that where there is knowledge, there is hope, and the early diagnosis of ovarian cancer gives women hope for a cure.”

GCF is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure public awareness of gynecologic cancer prevention, early diagnosis and proper treatment. In addition, the Foundation supports research and training related to gynecologic cancers. GCF advances this mission by increasing public and private funds that aid in the development and implementation of programs to meet these goals.

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