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Fight Cancer

Pattie Byrnes

Posted on July 03 2020

My Mom, My Hero

In the winter of 1988, my mother learned she had Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. To most people, this diagnosis would be devastating. To my mom, though, it was a chance to fight.  When learning what her options were, she volunteered  to become an experimental chemo patient at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Besides wanting to rid herself of her cancer, she wanted to help other women by helping to advance Ovarian Cancer research and ultimately, find a cure. Her chemo regimen was intense, painful, and loaded with side effects.  She never complained when she spent days in bed, racked with nausea and pain. She believed that the cause was worth the fight. She succumbed to her cancer in 1993, but she outlived her diagnosis, thanks to her will and the miracle medicine makers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital.

She was an inspiration to me, and to many, many other woman. To honor her, I decided to continue her fight. I have been involved for the past 28 years in helping to raise awareness for Ovarian Cancer by donating a portion of my revenue to research at MSKCC so a cure may be found for Ovarian Cancer. We now have established a  Fit 4 U Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at MSKCC so that others can also contribute. Please help me continue to fight for her, and thousands of other women like her.

The ovaries are a pair of female reproductive glands in which eggs are formed. They are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries are composed of three distinct cell types: epithelial cells, germ cells, and stromal cells. Each of these cell types can give rise to different kinds of tumors.

Ovarian cancer is the second most common type of gynecologic cancer. Of the different types of ovarian cancer, epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common, originating in the epithelial cells that cover the surface of the ovary. Other rarer kinds of ovarian cancer include germ cell and stromal cell tumors.

Nine out of ten ovarian tumors originate in the epithelial cells. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 21,550 women in the US will be diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer in 2009. Although approximately 14,600 women die from this disease each year in the US, the survival rate of women with ovarian cancer has been increasing over the past three decades.

Germ Cell & Stromal Cell Tumors

Ovarian germ cell tumors start in the cells that produce individual eggs. Germ cell tumors are rare (accounting for one in 20 ovarian tumors), usually occurring in women younger than 20 years. Many germ cell tumors are noncancerous.

Stromal cell tumors start in the supporting connective tissue that holds the ovary together. The female hormones estrogen and progesterone are made in the stromal cells. These tumors can occur in women of any age, but they are also uncommon.

A family history of ovarian cancer is the strongest risk factor for this disease. Women with mutations in the BRCA genes have a particularly increased risk. Some factors — such as having surgery to remove the ovaries, the use of oral contraceptives, and tubal ligation — have been shown to help prevent ovarian cancer.

The four symptoms much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population are bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering has created a special program that offers screening tests to women with an increased risk of this disease due to a family history or BRCA mutations.

The two methods currently available to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer from ever occurring are using oral contraceptives or undergoing risk-reducing (prophylactic) surgery to remove the ovary and fallopian tubes.

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