This year, thousands of American women -- our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, and friends -- will die from ovarian cancer. During September, we observe National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month to recognize those who have died and recommit ourselves to helping the women who are fighting for their health.
Every year, more than 20,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which is the fifth leading cause of cancer death for women and accounts for more than 14,000 deaths a year.
The administration advances scientific research to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment. When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective, but, there is currently no proven method to screen for ovarian cancer in women.
That is why awareness is key to women's survival. Ovarian cancer often does have signs and symptoms, so it is important to pay attention to your body --to be aware-- and know what is normal for you. If you have vaginal bleeding that is not normal for you, see a doctor right away. Also see your health care provider if you have any of the other signs that are not normal for you, such as pain in the pelvic or abdominal area or bloating, for two weeks or longer.
Know your risk factors. All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, but older women are more likely to get the disease than younger women. There are some factors that may increase your risk, including if you have genetic mutations called BRCA1 or BRCA2, have had certain cancers, breast,uterine,or have never given birth or have had trouble getting pregnant.
Having any of these symptoms or factors does not mean you have or will get ovarian cancer. But you should speak with your health care professional about your risk and whether you need genetic counseling and further examination.
The Affordable Care Act is making health care more accessible and providing important protections for women. Insurers must cover --at no out-of-pocket cost -- an annual well-woman visit, which is a good time for women to discuss their concerns about ovarian cancer with their health care provider. The law also guarantees coverage for genetic counseling and testing for certain women at high risk for ovarian cancer.
Women who are enrolled in Medicare part B can discuss any concerns at the annual wellness visit, which is available without part B coinsurance or satisfying the deductible. We also know that women-- and men -- without insurance are less likely to get the primary health care that they need to get healthy and to catch serious conditions like ovarian cancer in their early and more treatable stage. The good news is for millions of Americans who are uninsured or under-insured, new options for affordable, quality health insurance are around the corner.
In just a few weeks, every state will have an online Health Insurance Marketplace where people can find a plan that fits their budget and needs. Open enrollment starts October 1 for coverage that begins as soon as January 1, 2014. You can find information and updates at HealthCare.gov -- and the Spanish-language version at CuidadoDeSalud.gov. Sign up now at either site for a personal account to begin the process.
Also, in 2014, the health law makes it illegal to deny coverage or charge more if a woman has ovarian cancer or other pre-existing condition.
Remember: Being aware of what's normal for our bodies and having access to quality health care are vital weapons in the fight against ovarian cancer.
Learn more about the risks and symptoms of ovarian and other gynecologic cancers.
See the National Cancer Institute's What You Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer booklet and check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer campaign and read survivors' personal stories.