• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Turning Versailles ‘teal’ for ovarian cancer awareness

SUE JACOBS was diagnosed with ovarian cancer before her 52nd birthday. She and other survivors are raising awareness about ovarian cancer when they “Turn The Towns Teal” in September. Teal-colored bows were tied to lampposts along Main Street in downtown Versailles to remind women about being screened for this “silent disease,” which has symptoms often ignored by women. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Teal-colored bows are tied to lampposts along Main Street in downtown Versailles this month to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. It marks the third year that the community has promoted National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Often described as “The Silent Disease,” ovarian cancer claims 14,000 lives each year. With 22,000 new cases each year, a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer every 23 minutes, according to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance.

Survivors in the Bluegrass Ovarian Cancer Support group like Sue Jacobs, who lives here, are helping “Turn The Towns Teal” by making, and then hanging teal-colored bows in Lexington as well as Harrodsburg and Versailles.

Twenty-five bows will line both sides of Main Street in downtown Versailles during National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, according to Jacobs.

Over 300 teal-colored bows helped bring awareness to ovarian cancer last September.

“We just need to make women aware of this disease,” said Jacobs. “It’s a bad disease. And it’s very deadly. It’s the deadliest of all the gynecologic cancers.”

The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are largely ignored by women as “monthly stuff,” said Jacobs, “but if you have the bloating, eating difficulty, abdominal or pelvic pain and urinary difficulties… for more than two weeks in a month or frequently – you really should go get checked out.”

One of the challenges of diagnosing ovarian cancer is there’s no single test that will detect this silent killer. “The only true way to diagnose it,” said Jacobs, “is by biopsy.”

If a diagnosis takes six to 18 months, which can often be the case, ovarian cancer has advanced beyond stage 1 or 2.

“I was diagnosed at stage 2. So I think that’s why I’m still here,” said Jacobs, who will soon mark her 10th year as a survivor.

The mother of two was diagnosed Dec. 28, 2008.

When Jacobs shared her own experience last Thursday morning, she was getting ready to start a 13th different drug and begin radiation therapy to continue her personal battle against cancer.

She said researchers are putting more emphasis on finding a test that leads to an early diagnosis, which will prolong the lives of survivors.

“I do know some people where their cancer was caught at stage 1. They went through their initial treatment and they’re living and doing great,” said Jacobs, 61.

“I also know of some people that were diagnosed at stage 3 and 4 and only lived a year.”

Free annual ovarian cancer screenings are offered to women 50 years and older at the University of Kentucky Medical Center and other satellite locations. The transvaginal ultrasound allows further investigation if something suspicious appears in a screening, said Jacobs.

For more information, call 859-323-4687 or 1-800-766-8279 or visit ovarianscreening.info online.

The Bluegrass Ovarian Cancer Support group meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at Lexington’s Joseph-Beth Booksellers. The nonprofit organization “exists to help Central Kentucky women and their loved ones during diagnosis, treatment and survival of ovarian and other gynecological cancers; and works to promote public awareness and education of these cancers.”

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