Calaneet_019When I joined the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance last fall, I had no personal history with this disease. That changed rapidly as I began to meet and work with survivors, their families and health professionals in the field. Today, teal—the color of ovarian cancer awareness—is deeply personal to me.

Throughout this month, the Disruptive Women in Health Care blog will feature four women whose lives have been touched by ovarian cancer. They include survivors, caregivers and advocates working with us to change the course of this disease.

Ovarian cancer takes a devastating toll on women who develop the disease. About 22,000 women will be diagnosed this year, and one in four of them will lose her life within a year of her diagnosis. Those numbers are frightening. They aren’t fun to talk about. But they reflect the reality of a condition that is difficult to detect and difficult to treat when the disease is advanced.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. We’ve all gotten used to awareness months, weeks and days—but I urge you not to tune this one out. Ovarian cancer is a frightening disease, but there are signs of hope, including promising new research about a screening method—something we currently lack.

How are we working to change the tide? One critical area is research, which could lead to an early detection test and better treatments for women who have ovarian cancer. Federal funding is essential for our cause, as 90 percent of nonprofit ovarian cancer funding comes from the federal government. In 2012, nearly $126 million were set aside for research programs—thanks in part to groups like the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance raising our voices on Capitol Hill.

We also work to educate the next generation of health providers about the risk factors and symptoms associated with ovarian cancer. Our Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives® program brings ovarian cancer survivors into medical, nursing and physician assistant schools, where they educate the next generation of health professionals to recognize the symptoms of this deadly disease.

You can help us change the course of ovarian cancer, too. This month we’ve launched a campaign called “30 Days of Teal”: a way to take action and raise awareness of ovarian cancer every day of September. Lend your voice to ours by visiting ovariancancer.org/30days. There’s an activity for everyone, from sharing the symptoms of ovarian cancer on social media, to emailing Congress, to wearing teal for ovarian awareness.

Teal has become very personal to me over the past year. As you hear the voices of our community this month—and, perhaps, take action with 30 Days of Teal—I hope this cause will become personal to you, too. Together we can begin to change the story about ovarian cancer to one of hope.

Calaneet Balas joined the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance as Chief Executive Officer in October 2012. Ms. Balas previously worked at the Arthritis Foundation, where she was part of an executive team that integrated and restructured four separately incorporated chapters into one region representing the Arthritis Foundation. Ms. Balas served as Chief Strategy Officer of the newly created Mid-Atlantic Region from 2010 until September 2012, and as President and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation’s Metro DC Chapter from 2005-2009, bringing financial stability to the chapter and increasing its fundraising efforts.

 

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