September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Sue Hester, Denver, encourages all women to become familiar with the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer. They are bloating that is persistent, eating less and feeling fuller, abdominal pain and trouble with urination and bowel habits.

Hester recently celebrated 10 years as an ovarian cancer survivor. This is an unusually long time because she was diagnosed at Stage 3C. She was in Salida during Labor Day week, doing family history research, and shared information about the disease.

“There is no diagnostic test for ovarian cancer,” she said. “When you go for your annual gynecologic exam, your Pap smear is to test for uterine cancer but does not detect ovarian cancer.”

Approximately 330 Colorado women will be diagnosed with this lethal disease and 220 Colorado women will die each year from it.

Looking back, she recalled feeling bloated and experiencing some minor pelvic pain. However, since she was fit and healthy and the symptoms were subtle, it didn’t occur to her that they might be signs of something serious, which is why she believes symptom education is so important.

A woman who experiences any of the above symptoms that persist for more than two weeks should consult her physician. There is no screening test for ovarian cancer, which is the deadliest gynecologic cancer, so symptom recognition is critical for early diagnosis.

Today Hester serves as president of the board of directors for the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance (COCA). Colorado women are encouraged to contact COCA for information and support services regarding ovarian cancer. The COCA phone number is 303-506-7014. The website is colo-ovariancancer.org.

Founded in 2005, the mission of the nonprofit Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance is to provide support to those affected by 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 the Awareness Campaign and Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives, a national program of the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA).

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