18-Year-Old College Softball Player Loses Her Life to Ovarian Cancer. Be Proactive5 years ago | Cancer
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
In very sad news, 18-year-old Mississippi State college softball pitcher Alex Wilcox recently died of ovarian cancer. Reportedly, she was diagnosed with the cancer in 2015 (while she was still in high school).
Despite her cancer diagnosis and having to go through treatment and chemotherapy, before her death Wilcox continued to pursue her studies and be an invaluable player on the athletic teams she played for.
I’m sure you’re thinking the same thing I am…
How did this happen to someone so young and who otherwise appeared to be healthy?
Unfortunately, we just don’t know. Disease sometimes happens no matter how young or healthy a person may appear. However, we can use this as an opportunity to learn about this disease and how to be proactive.
- Ovarian cancer is one of those difficult types of cancers, because it is very hard to detect.
A woman’s ovaries are about the size and shape of an almond. They are also intra-abdominal organs, so many women don’t experience any symptoms (which is why ovarian cancer is often referred to as “the silent killer”) when the cancer first develops. Many times, by the time a woman receives a proper diagnosis, the cancer is already advanced.
“Symptoms typically occur in advanced stages when tumor growth creates pressure on the bladder and rectum, and fluid begins to form,” according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC).
- Secondly, the symptoms are non-specific.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer may include bloating, abdominal pain, back pain, constipation, irregular periods and pain during sex. As you can see, these symptoms may be non-specific and even similar to a woman simply having a difficult menstrual cycle or other conditions, like endometriosis.
“Because these signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer have been described as vague or silent, only approximately 19 percent of ovarian cancer is diagnosed in the early stages,” reports the NOCC.
- Ovarian cancer is not that common, but its impact is devastating.
“Cancer of the ovary is not common, but it causes more deaths than other female reproductive cancers,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, according to the American Cancer Society.
The American Cancer Society’s 2018 estimates for ovarian cancer in the United States are:
- About 22,240 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
- About 14,070 women will die from ovarian cancer.
On top of this...
- Ovarian cancer is actually more common in older women.
This cancer is significantly less common in women under the age of 40. It is more prevalent in women 63 years of age or older. Ovarian cancer is also more common in white women than black women.
There are different types of ovarian cancer, and some are more common in younger women.
- Epithelial tumors.
Generally occurs in postmenopausal women. About 90 percent of ovarian cancers develop in the epithelium.
- Germ cell carcinoma tumors.
Accounts for about five percent of ovarian cancer cases. Found most often in women in their early 20s.
- Stromal carcinoma tumors.
Accounts for about five percent of ovarian cancer cases, and about 70 percent of the cases are diagnosed in Stage I.
- Small cell carcinoma of the ovary.
Rare and highly malignant. Occurs mainly in younger women, with a median age of 24.
Another young woman who battled ovarian cancer but, fortunately, survived is actress Cobie Smulders.
Smulders was diagnosed at just 25-years-old.
“I had tumors on both ovaries and the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes and surrounding tissues,” she said.
But in another report she said that after undergoing multiple surgeries and changing her lifestyle, she was able to overcome it. She also gave birth to two girls, so she was able to preserve her fertility as well.
How did Smulders change her lifestyle?
She says she switched to a raw diet and gave up carbs and cheese.
There is no specific type of diet that is best for preventing or managing ovarian cancer. However, with any type of cancer, research has shown that eating healthily can be very helpful. This means a diet with plenty of nutrient-dense foods, including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
It is also important to limit alcohol intake and avoid smoking.
How else can we be proactive about ovarian cancer?
- Oral contraception.
You may have heard of the BRCA gene mutation, which may increase the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.
“Using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) decreases the risk of developing ovarian cancer for average risk women and BRCA mutation carriers, especially among women who use them for several years. Women who used oral contraceptives for 5 or more years have about a 50% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer compared with women who never used oral contraceptives,” according to the American Cancer Society.
On the flip side, taking birth control pills may slightly increase your risk for breast cancer and may have unwanted side effects such as nutrient depletion. Speak with your doctor or a competent healthcare professional about what would be best for you.
- Test, don’t guess.
Take advantage of how far we have come in medicine and utilize genetic testing. Many people may take the approach that they just “would rather not know,” but if you discover you have a genetic predisposition for this type of cancer, you can take the steps to minimize your risk, such as eating healthily and getting regular check-ups.
Also get a nutrient test in order to ensure you are nutritionally balanced, meaning you don’t have any deficiencies or too much of a certain nutrient. Being nutritionally balanced puts you in the best position to fight off diseases or recover quickly from surgeries or treatment to eradicate the disease. If you are nutritionally imbalanced, you can work with a doctor or competent healthcare professional to tweak your diet and/or take quality supplements. Being nutritionally balanced is key in preventing or recovering from all types of disease.
Lastly, trust your gut.
It is always better to be safe than sorry. If you experience any symptoms of ovarian cancer that are persistent and continue to get worse, do not chalk it up to feeling fatigued or stressed. Talk to your doctor about what your concerns are. The earlier you can detect a disease, the better the outcome will likely be.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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