State, university leaders support ovarian cancer screening efforts



By Cami Stump

Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear, Dr. Mary Lynne Capilouto and state legislators came to UK’s campus Friday to show support for the Markey Ovarian Cancer Screening Program.

These university and state leaders joined Dr. John van Nagell Jr., director of gynecologic oncology, to show support and speak about the results of a 24-year research study. The study showed that annual screening has effectively detected ovarian cancer earlier than have clinical examinations.

With screenings, over two-thirds of the tumors detected were in stages one and two, with a 90 percent survival rate.

As the fifth-ranked cancer killer of American women, van Nagell said that ovarian cancer produces no specific symptoms in the early stages, is quick to advance and very difficult to cure.

“Early detection, that’s our goal,” he said.

Van Nagell and his colleagues started the Ovarian Screening Program in 1987 and more than 37,000 Kentucky women have had over 200,000 free screening examinations through the programs efforts.

Because ovarian cancer has the highest mortality rate of all women’s cancers, Beshear said the importance of early detection is the best way to combat the cancer.

“Early detection, early screening, saves lives,” Beshear said. “I’m happy to stand anytime and preach about early detection.”

Beshear was screened as a part of the program in 1992.

The screenings can be done in less than 15 minutes, and they can detect tumors that are too small for annual gynecological examinations to discover. The screenings so far have detected 447 ovarian tumors and 76 malignancies.

With this program serving as another way UK is working to promote better overall health in Kentucky, Capilouto said women need to take control of the cancer, with all of the services available to them.

“The most effective way to combat the disease is awareness,” Capilouto said.

The program has extended its reach over the last few years, performing screenings at six locations throughout the state, including Lexington, Elizabethtown, Somerset, Prestonsburg, Maysville and Paducah.

State Representative Martha Jane King said that they rural screenings are helpful in giving women across the state access to tools to improve their overall health.

“It takes a group of women to get stuff done,” van Nagell said. “And these women are doing their part to help increase awareness of the benefits of early detection through ovarian screening.”

Women over 50 or those over 25 with a family history of ovarian cancer are eligible for the Ovarian Cancer Screening Program’s free screening services.

For more information about the UK Markey Cancer Center Ovarian Screening Program, call 859-323-4687 or 800-766-8279.