A Senate panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, Assemblyman Dan Benson and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt aimed at increasing awareness of ovarian cancer by coordinating efforts on the state level with those on the national level.
“Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer because the symptoms are vague and non-specific,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “Women and their physicians often attribute them to more common conditions so by the time the cancer is diagnosed the tumor has often spread. The best way to combat this is through awareness and that’s what we hope to accomplish with this legislation.”
The bill (A-2161) would change the state designation of “Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month” from February to September of each year in order to align with the nationwide observance of September as “National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.” The goal is to promote awareness among the general public and the health care community of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, the importance of early detection, and the risk factors associated with developing ovarian cancer.
“Absent a definitive screening test to detect ovarian cancer, the best way to fight this disease is by raising public awareness so that it can be recognized and treated early,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “By coordinating the state’s awareness efforts with those on the national level, hopefully we can speak loudly enough in one concerted voice to raise everyone’s awareness of this silent killer.”
“Having regular pelvic examinations and increasing public awareness of the risk factors and health problems associated with ovarian cancer are the best ways to increase a woman’s overall survival rate for this type of cancer,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Awareness, in this case, is the best medicine and that can only be accomplished if we work together to educate women, their families and their doctors on the signs and symptoms.”
The lawmakers noted that among women in the United States, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death and the eighth most common type of cancer. While ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other gynecologic cancer in the United States, it only accounts for about three percent of all cancers in the United States.
According to the National Cancer Institute, it is estimated that 22,280 women will be diagnosed with and 15,500 women will die of ovarian cancer in 2012. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that it is estimated that more than $2.2 billion is spent annually on the treatment of ovarian cancer in the United States.
Although all women are at risk for ovarian cancer, older women are more likely to get the disease with about 90 percent of women who get the disease being 40 years of age or older and most being 55 years of age or older. Additionally, more than half the deaths from ovarian cancer occur in women between the ages of 55 and 74 and approximately one quarter of ovarian cancer deaths occur in women between 35 and 54 years of age.
When ovarian cancer is found and treated in its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate is 95 percent. However, most women who suffer from ovarian cancer are not diagnosed until the later stages of the cancer when the disease has spread, and the five-year survival rate for these women is 30 percent.
The full Assembly unanimously approved the measure in October. It now awaits final legislative approval by the full Senate.