Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month recognized in Clark Co.

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Those walking up the steps to the Clark County Courthouse the last few weeks might have noticed teal-colored bows tied to the railings.

While decorative, they are present for more than just aesthetic purposes.

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, addressing an illness affecting thousands of U.S. women yearly.

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The ribbons, along with teal-colored clothing, accessories, jewelry, and more, show support for those combating the disease.

Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates authorized the occasion, recognizing the Turn the Towns Teal campaign.

“The significance of it is to bring awareness,” said Melissa Lee Sheets, an Ovarian Cancer Awareness Support board member. “The more we can get involved, and the more people can see the teal, [the more] we will [have] a strong support system.”

Prioritizing ovarian cancer awareness is a close and personal issue for Sheets.

Having previously received a hysterectomy, she assumed that the possibility of obtaining ovarian cancer was improbable.

However, a professional recommended a CT scan.

“That CT scan showed that I [had] Stage 3 [cancer] and that I could get on a treatment plan,” Sheets said. “It’s definitely given me, right now, four strong years, and that’s why I want to turn the town teal and bring awareness to Clark County.”

Sheets’ efforts to educate others on the illness have spread beyond Clark County, as she’s spoken to third-year medical students taking courses in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kentucky.

“We as survivors tell our stories and tell our prior history,” Sheets said.

According to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, it is women’s fifth-highest cause of cancer-related deaths.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating, feeling full quickly, frequent urination and more.

However, as these can sometimes look symptomatic of other illnesses, thoughts of ovarian cancer can be overlooked.

“By the time it is found in women, it’s usually a late stage [and] the odds of women being successful in treating it [are] less,” Sheets said.

Thus, being aware of the symptoms is all the more critical.

At the University of Kentucky, which features the Markey Cancer Center Ovarian Screening Program that provides free annual sonographic screenings to women across Kentucky with the hopes of early detection, over 51,000 participants have received more than 365,000 free screenings since its inception in 1987.

Encouraging others to be active, Sheets also showed interest in collaborating with different groups – including Clark County Extension Homemakers – regarding future opportunities.

“I’m hoping that it’s something that will grow in the years to come in support of strong women that have battled ovarian cancer [and] that are currently going through ovarian cancer,” Sheets added. “I want them to know there is support out there. You’re not [fighting] alone.”