The S.C. Ovarian Cancer Foundation and the Center for Women through its “Lowcountry Women with Wings” (LWWW) program wants everyone to learn about ovarian cancer’s symptoms.

Only 19 percent of ovarian cancer cases are detected in the early stages. And currently there is no effective prescreening test for the disease. Until effective screening tools are approved we are left with non-specific symptoms that herald the cancer has arrived.

Ovarian cancer symptoms may include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling fully quickly, feeling the need to urinate urgently, fatigue, upset stomach or heartburn, back pain or constipation. Given these general symptoms that can be attributed to so many other issues/ailments, it is easy to understand how one can be misdiagnosed. I do not recall having any early warning symptoms. If I did, I wrote them off to life stressors.

Only two weeks before my diagnosis, I had a regular physical exam and bloodwork. Lab reports were perfect and my doctor told me that I was the picture of health. Neither he nor I could have known that I had Stage III ovarian cancer.

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving 2011, I felt a dull, but growing pain in my side. This was the tumor on my ovary that had twisted and by that evening took me into emergency surgery.

Too many women lose their battle because their symptoms are not detected or their physicians misdiagnose their ovarian cancer. For these women, once ovarian cancer has been detected, the fight may be insurmountable.

All women are at risk for ovarian cancer. Those with a genetic predisposition or a personal or family history of breast, ovarian or colon cancer are at a greater risk. If you have prolonged symptoms that increase over time, please seek out a gynecological oncologist.

We are fortunate to have specialists in Charleston who focus on women’s cancers. Women in more rural areas who do not have access to gynecological oncologists lose the fight at a higher rate than those of us with ready access to these specialists.

Join the Lowcountry Women With Wings to talk about ovarian cancer, and help spread the word.

Anne F. Bleecker

Chair, LWWW

Savannah Highway