Cara Sims visits with her mother, Rosemary Crisp, who succumbed to a 12-year struggle with ovarian cancer at age 65. Sims will be holding a movie screening to raise awareness about the disease on Thursday at Maiden Alley Cinema, 116 Broadway.
The term “girls’ night out” has taken on a different meaning for Cara Sims.
Sims’ mother, Rosemary Crisp, died at age 65 after battling ovarian cancer for over a decade, Sims said. She has made it her mission to raise awareness of the disease, and will be spreading the word at a movie screening and information session on Thursday.
“My girlfriends and I were talking about a year ago, and I was asking if they knew the signs and symptoms. No one even knew the month of awareness,” she said.
September is gynecological cancer awareness month. Of the cancers that affect the female reproductive system (cervical, uterine, vaginal, vulval, and the rare fallopian tube cancer), ovarian cancer accounts for the most deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.
While ovarian cancer is highly treatable if caught at the early stages, detection is often difficult, according to Dr. Andrew Berchuck, director of the gynecologic cancer program in the Duke University Cancer Institute.
Berchuck said that often, women experience such symptoms as abdominal masses and pelvic pressure late in the course of the disease, after tumors have spread to the abdominal cavity.
Sims said her mother didn’t discover she had cancer until it had reached stage four. “It makes me think, if she would’ve known the signs, she could’ve caught it earlier,” she added.
Pap smears cannot indicate the presence of the disease, according to the ACS, and tumors often go undetected during pelvic exams.
Contributing to the problem is the fact that early symptoms of ovarian cancer, such as swelling of the abdomen, difficulty eating, and frequent urination, are often similar to those of unrelated illnesses, Berchuck said.
“A lot of symptoms are not specific for ovarian cancer, and a lot of times, general physicians don’t think of the possibility,” he said.
For this reason, he recommends that women with a history of ovarian cancer among close family members, such as mothers and aunts, request genetic testing. “Mutations in BRCA1 and (BRCA)2 account for about 10 to 15 percent of ovarian cancer,” he said.
He added that once women are aware they have the gene, they will be able to take preventative measures to reduce the risk of developing the illness.
Sims, who is all too familiar with these facts, will be showing the movie “Steel Magnolias” and raising awareness of ovarian cancer at 6 p.m. Thursday in Maiden Alley Cinema, 112 Broadway.
“The best thing is education. It’s just not out there enough,” she said.
Call Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 575-8641.
According to the American Cancer Society, risk factors for ovarian cancer include:
Age: Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause. Half of all ovarian cancers are found in women over the age of 63.
Reproductive history: A woman who has had children has a lower risk of ovarian cancer than women who have no children.
Family and personal history: Women whose family members have been diagnosed with breast, ovarian, or colorectal cancer are more at risk than others. Risk is also higher in women who have previously had breast cancer.
Obesity, high-fat diets, and hormone therapy have also been linked to the development of ovarian cancer.