Each year, 14,000 American women die of ovarian cancer, succumbing to a disease that is frequently misdiagnosed or diagnosed too late. Among those lost to the disease over the years were comedian Gilda Radner, actress Madeline Kahn, civil rights icon Coretta Scott King, and Ann Durham, Barack Obama’s mother. Having lost her own mother to ovarian cancer, comedian and author Jennifer Coken is making it her mission to teach women how to identify its symptoms early to save their own lives.
The author of When I Die Take My Panties: Turning Your Darkest Moments into Your Greatest Gifts (Morgan James Publishing), Coken is urging women to download two free symptom trackers during National Ovarian Cancer Month. The trackers encourage women to pay attention to symptoms that on their own might not seem troubling. They include persistent bloating, feeling full even while eating less, persistent back and abdominal pain, unusual fatigue or bleeding, and changes in bladder and bowel habits.
Coken says women who experience some or all of these symptoms for two weeks in a row should share that information with their gynecologist. She recommends that women say, “Prove to me that I don’t have ovarian cancer!” Coken adds that women have to take control of their health by presenting their gynecologists with the facts. She says: “Doctors deal in facts, so it helps to be able to share precise symptoms and their duration with them.”
PAP Smears test for cervical cancer—not ovarian, says Coken, who will give the keynote address at the Annual Teal Gala fundraiser for the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Coalition on November 1, 2017 in Denver, Colo.