September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
Even among rooted, fourth generation Denver families, the Blue-McClintock family stands out for its closeness. Lindsey (Blue) McClintock’s father and grandmother both graduated from South High School, and McClintock and her husband, Matt, decided to purchase a home in the same Cherry Creek neighborhood in which she grew up. Both McClintock and her brother work with their spouses along with their dad at the family business, Blue Family Development. That is why the loss of her mother as well as her husband’s cousin, within seven months of each other, to ovarian cancer struck McClintock particularly hard.
While ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers, it is relatively rare accounting for only 28% of gynecologic cancers. Because there is no screening test and the symptoms are subtle, most cases are diagnosed at a late stage when the chance of long-term survival decreases. McClintock’s mother, Sandy, was originally referred to a kidney specialist when she experienced lower back pain. Then, when she lost her appetite and had persistent nausea, doctors tested her for a variety of gastrointestinal problems. It was two months before McClintock’s mother was finally diagnosed with Stage 3C ovarian cancer. Sandy bravely underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy, surgery, and brief periods of remission before ultimately succumbing to her cancer after a two-year battle. Emily McClintock Addlesperger, Matt’s cousin, passed away only a week after her diagnosis. She was just 44 years old.
The loss of two close family members prompted McClintock to become better educated about ovarian cancer. “I was shocked to learn the Pap Smear only tests for cervical cancer—not ovarian or uterine cancer,” reported McClintock. “I soon realized how little education there is for women on cancers that only affect us.” She had genetic testing and preventative gynecologic surgery to reduce her own chances of developing ovarian cancer. However, she also wanted to raise awareness and spark conversations among women about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. Last year, in collaboration with members of the Gynecologic Oncology program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance (COCA), McClintock founded a website and social media site, Nail Ovarian Cancer (nailovariancancer.org and @nail.ovarian.cancer on Instagram). The sites encourage women to share information about ovarian cancer in a non-threatening way and learn how to become better advocates for their overall health. Women are encouraged to post pictures of their nails painted teal (the color of ovarian cancer) with the hashtag #nailovariancancer and to have two-minute Teal Talks with other women to educate them about ovarian cancer and the most common symptoms.
September is national Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and Blue encourages women to become familiar with the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer – bloating that is persistent, eating less and feeling fuller, abdominal pain and trouble with urination and bowel habits. A woman who experiences any of the above symptoms that persist for more than two weeks should consult her physician and ask for additional tests to rule out ovarian cancer. There is no screening test for ovarian cancer, which is the deadliest gynecologic cancer, so symptom recognition is critical for early diagnosis.
“Women need to stick together and look out for one another,” says McClintock. “Ovarian cancer is not nearly as scary if it is caught in an early stage, so knowing the symptoms to watch out for and advocating for yourself and the women you love is essential.”
About the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance
Founded in 2005, the mission of the nonprofit Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance is to provide support to those affected by ovarian cancer, and to promote awareness and early detection of ovarian cancer through advocacy and education. Programs include COCACares Financial Assistance, Nicki’s Circle Support Groups, the Ovarian Cancer Resource Guide, Comfort Kits for the newly diagnosed, Carol’s Wish Financial Assistance Program, an annual Raise Awareness campaign, and Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives®, a national program of the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA).
To learn more about COCA and its programs, visit www.colo-ovariancancer.org.