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It’s National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month!

Guest post by Jane MacNeil, President of Turn The Towns Teal®

What do you think of when you see the color teal? The ocean? Or is it your favorite crayon from childhood? Our national campaign called Turn The Towns Teal® is trying to change that.

Our founder (and my sister-in-law) Gail MacNeil was shopping at the supermarket one day when she noticed a small pink ribbon printed on the package of her English muffins. Gail immediately recognized the ribbon – a popular method of bringing awareness to breast cancer – and realized there was little awareness of another prominent cancer among women: ovarian cancer.

Inspired by her own ten-year battle with ovarian cancer, Gail immediately began to lay the foundation of Turn The Towns Teal® and set forth certain guidelines for the campaign, including the requirement that biodegradable teal ribbons be put up in the beginning of September to promote awareness of this particular cancer. She officially started the campaign in 2007, at which time 40 towns in New Jersey participated. By 2015, we had registrants in all 50 states as well as in Canada and Bermuda.

Today, our campaign is being carried out by my family and a group of extremely dedicated volunteers. Volunteers tie our biodegradable teal ribbons (made in the USA!) in their towns, at their businesses, places of worship, and neighborhoods and private residences. They also distribute our symptom cards to increase awareness of the subtle symptoms and risk factors of ovarian cancer.

Because there is NO conclusive early detection test for this cancer and a pap test does not detect ovarian cancer, early detection is critical. Some of the symptoms we recommend watching for are:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea, or indigestion
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
  • Unexplained changes in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight gain/loss
  • Ongoing unusual fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Menstrual changes
  • Pain during intimacy

If these symptoms persist for 10 days to 2 weeks, consult your gynecologist, physician or gynecological oncologist. As seniors, it is important to be an advocate for your own health. Gail’s gynecologist dismissed her classic symptoms on three separate occasions. When she was eventually diagnosed, she was in the very late stages of the disease and unfortunately passed away in 2008.

While every woman is at risk for ovarian cancer, the good news is, if diagnosed early the success rate is 90-95 percent. Remember: The earlier the diagnosis the better the prognosis.

Want to get involved with Turn The Towns Teal®? Visit our website for more information. We’ll start registration for our 2018 campaign on May 8, World Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day!

Jane MacNeil is President of Turn The Towns Teal®, a national campaign to promote awareness of ovarian cancer, its subtle symptoms and risk factors.