September Is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

By Jim Stubenrauch, senior editor

OvarianCancerArticleThis month, AJN is joining in the nationwide effort to raise awareness and promote education about ovarian cancer. The September issue contains an original research paper on “Women’s Awareness of Ovarian Cancer Risks and Symptoms” by Suzy Lockwood-Rayermann, PhD, MSN, RN, and colleagues. The authors analyzed data collected from an online survey completed by more than 1,200 women ages 40 and older and found that awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms and risk factors is low. This suggests that nurses have an excellent opportunity to educate patients and help them get diagnosed at earlier stages of the disease when it’s more treatable.

You can also hear an interview I conducted with Dr. Lockwood-Rayermann on our podcasts page.

I’ll summarize the study below, but first, you might want to know that cancer survivor, actress, and women’s health activist Fran Drescher wrote on a related topic in this month’s Viewpoint, “Women, Take Control of Your Bodies!” Drescher discusses her battle with uterine cancer and the crucial support her sister Nadine, a nurse, provided on her “medical oddysey.” After writing a book about her experience, Cancer Schmancer, Drescher started the Cancer Schmancer Movement, an organization dedicated to promoting education, legislation, and social reform aimed at early detection of cancer.

Back to the ovarian cancer awareness research, for those who want more details without actually going to the article: The vast majority of cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed at stage III or IV, and five-year survival rates after diagnosis at these stages are 71% and 31%, respectively. Although a consensus among researchers on the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer has evolved over time, whether women themselves know them isn’t clear.

The authors used an online survey instrument developed in 2006 by the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition in collaboration with a private research firm that conducted the survey and collected the data. The survey items collected demographic data and asked respondents about their familiarity with ovarian cancer symptoms and risk factors. Women were also asked whether they thought the Papanicolaou test diagnosed ovarian cancer (a common misconception) and whether they had discussed ovarian cancer with a physician, and if they had, who had initiated the conversation. Data from a convenience sample of 1,235 responses to the online survey were analyzed, using descriptive and comparative statistics. Respondents were categorized by age, education level, race or ethnicity, and whether or not they knew someone with ovarian cancer. Comparisons were made to determine whether demographic factors were associated with women’s knowledge of specific symptoms and risk factors associated with ovarian cancer.

The results were not encouraging: only 15% of respondents were familiar with ovarian cancer symptoms, and more than two-thirds incorrectly believed that the Papanicolaou test diagnoses it. Four out of five had never had a conversation with a physician about symptoms and risk factors; among these, more than half assumed that because their physician had not initiated such a discussion, ovarian cancer was “not an issue.” Of the 19% of women who’d had such discussions, two-thirds had initiated it themselves. Respondents were more knowledgeable about risk factors; 59% correctly identified personal or family history of breast, ovarian, or colon cancer, and half of respondents correctly identified genetic predisposition, as risk factors.

All of this suggests that nurses and physicians should provide women with specific information on symptoms and risk factors in educating them on ovarian cancer.

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2016-11-21T13:22:49+00:00 September 1st, 2009|nursing research|5 Comments

About the Author:

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

5 Comments

  1. Rachel September 15, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    In honor of September being National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, the OvarianCancerAwareness.org Coalition will be holding its fourth annual Teal Ribbon Awards tonight at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge (40 Edwin Land Boulevard) from 6:00-8:00 PM. The Teal Ribbon Awards were created to honor the commitment and hard work of men and women around the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This year’s honorees include:

    Ross S. Berkowitz, MD – Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center
    Barbara Browne – Founding Member, OCEAN @ MGH
    Nancy Farrell – in memory of Patricia Cronin
    William Gaine – Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association

    Also, several venues in Massachusetts will be illuminated in teal, including:
    The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, Bank of America Pavilion, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, and Westin Waterfront Hotel.

    Follow the event live on twitter at twitter.com/ovarcanceraware

    Also…

    On Friday, September 18, 2009 at 12:30 PM, we will be holding our Third Annual Live Webcast on Ovarian Cancer. The webcast will be held at the Omni Parker House Hotel (60 School Street) in Boston in the Press Room. Coalition members, survivors and doctors will be answering your questions. To view the live webcast, visit http://www.ovariancancerawareness.org and click under the event “Live Webcast” where it states, “click here to watch.” You will then be asked to log in with your name. The live feed will begin at 12:00 PM and the broadcast will start at 12:30 PM.

  2. Rachel September 15, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    In honor of September being National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, the OvarianCancerAwareness.org Coalition will be holding its fourth annual Teal Ribbon Awards tonight at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge (40 Edwin Land Boulevard) from 6:00-8:00 PM. The Teal Ribbon Awards were created to honor the commitment and hard work of men and women around the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This year’s honorees include:

    Ross S. Berkowitz, MD – Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center
    Barbara Browne – Founding Member, OCEAN @ MGH
    Nancy Farrell – in memory of Patricia Cronin
    William Gaine – Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association

    Also, several venues in Massachusetts will be illuminated in teal, including:
    The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, Bank of America Pavilion, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, and Westin Waterfront Hotel.

    Follow the event live on twitter at twitter.com/ovarcanceraware

    Also…

    On Friday, September 18, 2009 at 12:30 PM, we will be holding our Third Annual Live Webcast on Ovarian Cancer. The webcast will be held at the Omni Parker House Hotel (60 School Street) in Boston in the Press Room. Coalition members, survivors and doctors will be answering your questions. To view the live webcast, visit http://www.ovariancancerawareness.org and click under the event “Live Webcast” where it states, “click here to watch.” You will then be asked to log in with your name. The live feed will begin at 12:00 PM and the broadcast will start at 12:30 PM.

  3. Joanne M McKay RN September 10, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    A very informative article, every women should “know” her body, if it seems a little “off” DON’T blow it off because you are busy with day to day life…an easy thing to do that most women tend to do.I was 38, newly married a month and busy with my 2nd grader. I was diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer, I was pushy to find out why I had these vaque symtoms. That was 1996, after major surgery and 6 rounds of chemo I’m ok. I am registered with the Gilda Radner center in Buffalo, N.Y and I captain Relay for Life teams here in Seattle nearly every year since. I say speak up…..DON’T whisper, that’s what this cancer does.

  4. R.M. September 6, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    The article is very informative.It is really necessary for women to know the early symptoms of ovarian cancer and either other types of cancer.

  5. jimmy September 3, 2009 at 7:15 am

    Cancer is increasing day by day. It can occur to older geberation and also younger ones. But many younger women ignore indicators of cancer than men. Though, many of the indicators might not make a women fret about cancer, nonetheless they must be medically diagnosed for precaution. To know some of the cancer indicators, refer http://www.womenhealthline.com/paying-heed-to-bothersome-cancer-indicators-part-ii/

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