WHEELING - The National Cancer Institute estimates 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer will occur in women this year, resulting in 14,030 deaths.
Ovarian cancer, unlike others such as cervical cancer, does not have medical tests that can detect it. This is why it is important for women to pay attention to changes and symptoms produced by their bodies.
For example, a woman should see her gynecologist if the following signs and symptoms persist for more than two weeks: bloating; pelvic or abdominal pain; trouble eating or feeling full quickly; feeling the need to urinate urgently or often; fatigue; upset stomach or heartburn; back pain; pain during sex; and constipation or menstrual changes.
Many women dismiss or ignore the symptoms, which can lead to a much later and harder to cure diagnosis.
To help educate people, especially women and physicians, Wheeling resident Denny Stephan has been working to spread the word about ovarian cancer and its symptoms after his wife, Martha, died from the disease.
Martha Stephan had been feeling symptoms, but the first diagnosis she received - gas - was incorrect. When she finally received the right diagnosis of ovarian cancer, the disease had already progressed to Stage 4. Martha Stephan, known as "Marti" to friends and family, died Sept. 26, 2011. She was 69 years old.
Since her death, each fall Stephan has held the "Marti Wood Stephan Ovarian Cancer Awareness 5K" to raise money for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. This year's 5K is planned for 9 a.m. Sept. 21 at Bridge Street Middle School in Wheeling. Stephan also now operates the Wheeling chapter of the coalition from his home and cell phone. Anyone can call him at 304-281-8550 to ask questions about ovarian cancer.
"I'll go anywhere, and I'll bring them literature," Stephan said.
In addition to the symptoms, women should take note that having breast cancer - which Martha Stephan had fought six years before - is an ovarian cancer risk factor.
Other risk factors include a personal or family history of colon cancer, increasing age, a genetic predisposition and undesired infertility.