Women with ovarian, endometrial, cervical or any other gynecologic cancers are welcome to participate in a free support group at the University of Connecticut Health Center. Family members, loved-ones and caregivers are also invited.
The support group meets on the last Thursday of every month at 5:30 p.m., in the Onyiuke Dining Room, near the Food Court.
The next meeting, on June 28, will include a mini health fair, featuring chair massages, yoga classes and cosmetology services offered through the American Cancer Society’s Look Good … Feel Better program, which will supply every woman with a personalized make-up kit. In addition, the LIVESTRONG Foundation will be providing information about its services and a light dinner will be served.
For more information or to register, contact Pam Nixon, the William Raveis-American Cancer Society Patient Navigator at 860-679-7820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The support group is open to the entire region, not just UConn Health Center patients and families,” said Dr. Molly Brewer, director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the Health Center. “We are partnering with the American Cancer Society’s patient navigator program and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition to provide a robust array of information and services for all participants,” she said.
“Women’s cancers, especially ovarian cancer, continue to be misunderstood,” added Brewer, who also leads the Women’s Cancer Prevention Program at the Health Center. “When it comes to cancer, education is power.”
Awareness is Key
According to the National Cancer Institute, about 22,300 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year and about 70% will not survive. In comparison, about 226,870 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer but 17% will not survive.
In large part, this is due to the fact that science has not yet developed a reliable early detection tool for ovarian cancer, Brewer explained.
“We are still looking for something that will be as helpful in the early detection of ovarian cancer as mammography is for breast cancer,” she added. Brewer and a team of UConn researchers are currently testing a new, noninvasive imaging device to detect potential cancers in the early stages. The ongoing research is supported through funding from the National Institutes of Health.
However, while technology evolves, Brewer argues that a woman’s best defense against ovarian cancer is to both understand her personal risk factors and to never ignore symptoms, even if they are vague.
One of the most significant risk factors for ovarian cancer is a family history of the disease. “While not all cancers are linked with a family history, it is vitally important for women to be aware of ovarian cancer in her family, especially if it affects a mother, sister or aunt,” she adds.
Brewer encourages women with a family history of the disease to consider genetic counseling which may lead to genetic testing. If a woman’s medical team determines that she is at risk for ovarian cancer, prevention strategies can be considered, ranging from lifestyle changes and medications to surgical interventions.
“Cancer prevention is not a one-size-fits-all prescription. The strategies vary based on a wide variety of individual factors,” she adds.
In addition, Brewer encourages all women to be aware of the known symptoms associated with ovarian cancer.
“Although many of these symptoms are common and do not seem serious, if they persist for more than a few weeks, women should take action and discuss them with her physician or provider,” Brewer said, noting that ovarian cancer symptoms can include:
- Pelvic or stomach pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary frequency and/or urgency
- Indigestion, gas or nausea
To learn more about women’s cancer prevention, visit cancer.uchc.edu