Andie MacDowell Is Speaking Out About Ovarian Cancer
Andie MacDowell has starred in such enduringly popular movies as Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral, graced the covers of countless magazines, and modeled for fashion icons Bill Blass, Yves St. Laurent and others. She’s an international supermodel and actress who’s also a longtime and passionate advocate for ovarian cancer research and education. She recently sat down with MyHealth to discuss her work to raise awareness about this often forgotten disease.
When did you first begin to raise awareness about ovarian cancer?
I first learned about ovarian cancer when I began working as a spokesperson for L’Oreal Paris. I’m proud to say that L’Oreal has raised more than $18 million for ovarian cancer causes since 1997.
Why are you so passionate about educating women about the disease?
In 2012, more than 22,000 women in America were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and more than 15,000 mothers and daughters, sisters and friends died from the disease. That’s just too great a loss.
Why is education so important?
Cervical cancer can be detected early with a Pap test. But there’s no easy way to diagnose ovarian cancer. There’s no routine screening test that provides early detection. As a result, ovarian cancer is all too often a silent killer. But that can change if women know the signs of ovarian cancer and see their doctor if they suspect something is wrong.
Each woman needs to know her body so she can detect some of the more vague and subtle changes that may indicate ovarian cancer: feeling tired, upset stomach, back pain, pain during sex, constipation and changes in the menstrual cycle. Early detection is critical. In fact, when the disease is detected before it has spread outside the ovary, the five-year survival rate is 94 percent! But sadly, only about 15 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at this stage.
Are there other precautions women can take?
Seeing your personal physician for a pelvic exam is one way to detect the disease early, but it’s no guarantee. It’s difficult to find ovarian tumors during this type of examination.
What are the risk factors for ovarian cancer?
Most cases of ovarian cancer occur after menopause. Half of the cases of ovarian cancer are found in women age 63 and older. Women who have not had children also have a higher risk as well as overweight and obese women. Ovarian cancer can also run in families.
Any final thoughts?
Knowledge is the key. Talk to your doctor. Ask questions. Educate yourself. We’ve made great progress since the early 80s, when the five-year survival rate was as low as 10 percent. Thankfully, the overall five-year survival rate today is 46 percent. We need to keep moving in that same positive direction.
Common warning signs for ovarian cancer
• Swelling in the stomach or bloating caused by a build-up of fluid
• Pelvic pressure or stomach pain
• Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
• Having to urinate often or feeling like you need to go right away.
If you experience these symptoms almost every day for more than a few weeks, you need to see a doctor.