• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Raising awareness about ovarian cancer in Versailles

To raise awareness about ovarian cancer, Sue Jacobs and some friends were busy hanging teal-colored bows along Main and Lexington streets in downtown Versailles last Wednesday, Aug. 31. "Turn The Towns Teal" happens in communities across the country every September. This month-long ovarian cancer awareness campaign came to Versailles this year as Jacobs and other survivors continue to promote awareness about ovarian and other gynecological cancers among women in Central Kentucky. "It is a good way of getting the awareness message out," said Jacobs, a resident of Versailles whose involvement with the national public awareness campaign arose through her involvement with Bluegrass Ovarian Cancer Support, Inc. BOCS was organized as a nonprofit in 2009 to help Central Kentucky women and their loved ones during diagnosis, treatment and survival of ovarian and other gynecological cancers.

Cancer survivors in the support group meet at 6:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at Lexington's Joseph-Beth Booksellers. In 2013, BOCS began its involvement with the national "Turn The Towns Teal" campaign to promote public awareness of ovarian cancer by hanging teal-colored bows at the Markey Cancer Center. A year later, the support group was hanging ovarian cancer awareness bows in downtown Lexington during National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. "We have a vested interest in keeping our citizens safe and healthy," said Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott. ".Raise some awareness - that's what it's all about." In addition to raising public awareness through the "Turn The Towns Teal" national campaign, BOCS cancer survivors participate in local health fairs to increase awareness about ovarian and other gynecologic cancers. "Survivors Teaching Students" - a national program - allows Jacobs and other BOCS cancer survivors to educate third-year medical students at the University of Kentucky about the symptoms and risk factors of ovarian cancer. Similar one-day programs are offered to UK students studying to become physician's assistants and nurses. "Each of these healthcare students," said Jacobs, ".they're going to interact with thousands of women. So if we can get the message to them" . she knows many women will benefit from having healthcare providers who know the symptoms and risk factors of ovarian cancer. Sometimes dubbed "The Silent Disease," the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer are bloating, eating difficulty, abdominal pain and trouble urinating. Additional symptoms include fatigue, indigestion and back pain, which can make a diagnosis difficult. So women with any of these symptoms that occurred suddenly and persist for several weeks should consult a physician. Traugott said he wasn't fully aware of ovarian cancer's symptoms - and how those symptoms can mimic other disease or illness - before he talked with Jacobs about the "Turn The Town Teal" public awareness campaign. Free annual ovarian cancer screenings are offered to women (50 years and older) at the University of Kentucky Medical Center and other satellite locations in the commonwealth. For more information about the screenings, call 323-4687 or 1-800-766-8279, or visit ovarianscreening.info. Inspired by founder Gail MacNeil's 10-year battle with ovarian cancer, "Turn the Towns Teal" continues under her family's leadership and the work of dedicated volunteers. For more information about the public awareness campaign, visit turnthetownteal.org.

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