Free screening program at Markey Cancer Center helping to detect ovarian cancer earlier

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and it is often considered a silent killer among women.
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 3:55 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and it is often considered a silent killer among women.

In this month’s Link to Hope we’re showing you a program at the University of Kentucky that aims to save lives by getting more women screened earlier.

Every September teal ribbons line the streets of downtown Lexington, which are a labor of love and awareness for Kathy Tabb.

“I love teal, it’s my favorite color. It has a special meaning to me right now,” said Tabb with the Bluegrass Ovarian Cancer Support.

Tabb is a 29-year survivor of ovarian cancer. Her mother died of the disease and then at 43 she was diagnosed. She says being aware of family history and listening to her body helped her make the discovery.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘if this is it, if I’m going to have this, I’m going to fight it,’” said Tabb.

Screening and early detection is key when it comes to ovarian cancer.

“The problem with it is it doesn’t cause a lot of symptoms until it’s already advanced, so three quarters of patients are diagnosed at stage three or four,” said Dr. Charlie Dietrich.

Dr. Dietrich is with the Ovarian Cancer Screening Program at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center. Since 1987 the program has been providing free screenings to women 50 and over to help detect cancer earlier.

“And the success of the program has been that we have detected about 107 new cancers over that period of time and two-thirds of those cancers were actually diagnosed at an earlier stage,” said Dr. Dietrich.

This year Dr. Dietrich says there will be 20,000 new cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed in the U.S. and nearly 13,000 deaths. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Urinary frequency
  • Pelvic pain
  • Changes in your bowel habits

“While ovarian cancer doesn’t cause a lot of symptoms, it does cause some and so if you notice a little subtle change don’t just ignore it” said Dr. Dietrich.

And that is where this screening program comes in, a link to hope in helping to save lives.

Tabb hopes the teal ribbons she puts up each year are a visible reminder to women to listen up and be aware of ovarian cancer.

“I just have the need to make awareness for other people, I don’t want anyone else to go through that,” said Tabb.

The free screening at UK is for all women over the age of 50 and for women 25 or older with a family history of ovarian cancer.