I’m not an “awareness-ribbon” type of person. There’s certainly nothing wrong with these ribbons or bracelets, but I have just never worn them. This is, in part due to how my parents raised me, and it’s also just how I am. My family and I just aren’t the types to put our illnesses or private concerns on public display. This month, however, I am absolutely and enthusiastically going against my basic nature. In fact, all of us at Serenity Women’s Care are wearing beautiful jewel tones of teal during the month of September.
September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month. Gynecological, or GYN, cancers are those which affect the female pelvic organs. They can affect women of any age, race, or ethnicity, whether they’ve had children or not, and whether they’ve used hormone therapy or not. The only requirement is our female gender.
Some of these cancers, like cervical cancer, are generally easy to diagnose. We sometimes know years ahead of time that a women’s illness will likely progress to cervical cancer. Most cervical cancer is 100% curable if diagnosed early. Nearly 90% of cervical cancer is also preventable now, with the HPV vaccine. Other GYN cancers, like ovarian cancer, for example, are less common. Ovarian cancer sneaks up on women, and is notoriously difficult to diagnose early. Ovarian cancer is far more deadly than other GYN cancers. Other GYn cancers include cancer of the fallopian tubes, cancer of the uterus and endometrium (uterine lining), and vulvar/vaginal cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015, there will be 90,000 American women diagnosed with GYN cancer, and 3,000 deaths.
All of our patients are very dear, and GYN cancer has affected a number of them. I think especially of *Brianne, the lovely young mother, whose cancer has recurred. She just wants to see her little boy grow up, but is uncertain if she will live long enough to be able to. *Kathy has a hearty laugh, and loves a good sale. Cancer came to her just when her first grandchild arrived. She is fighting a very hard battle now. *Helen is the shiny, sparkling Grandma from Jersey, who beat down the mother of all gynecologic cancers, and somehow laughed in its face through the whole battle.
Put on a teal ribbon for these women, learn all you can about GYN cancers, donate to a reputable research organization, and get screened if it’s time. The life you save may be your own, or that of someone you love.
*Not these women’s real names.