The Fight Against Ovarian Cancer

Hare and Tortoise 8kThe Fight Against Ovarian Cancer – A Community Wide Need

 By John O’Hare, Race Director, Hare and Tortoise Run/Walk


There is an urgent need for the greater Williamsburg community to join in the fight against Ovarian Cancer. Consider these facts about the disease. It is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths among American women. It is the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers. An estimated 1 in 58 American women will develop Ovarian Cancer and about 15,000 annually lose their lives to the disease.  Early detection is the key that greatly increases the chance for survival.  If diagnosed and treated early, when confined to the ovary, the 5-year survival rate is over 90%. Unfortunately, only 19% of all cases are found at this early stage.


The lifetime-risk diagnosis for breast cancer is 1 in 8 women, for cervical cancer it is 1 in 145, and for Ovarian Cancer it is 1 in 58.  A 5-year survival rate comparison however provides a far different picture. For breast cancer 89% of those diagnosed are alive 5 years after diagnosis, for cervical cancer 72% are alive and for Ovarian Cancer only 46% are alive.


According to the published data, the mortality rates for Ovarian Cancer have not improved in the last 30 years. Methods exist to reduce the risk but nothing exists to prevent the disease. Regrettably the exact causes of Ovarian Cancer are not known. No reliable screening and early detection tools exist. The disease is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms associated with its diagnosis are subtle and easily confused with other conditions. Unfortunately significant misinformation exists about the disease. As an example, in a recent survey the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition reported that 62% of Americans surveyed erroneously believe that a Pap smear can detect ovarian cancer. The facts are that a Pap smear will not detect Ovarian Cancer.


Researchers have identified four major symptoms that are more likely to occur in women with Ovarian Cancer. These are:  bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency). Research shows that about 90% of women with early-stage Ovarian Cancer experience these symptoms. This is not absolute because these symptoms can also be indicative of other conditions. The frequency and number of these symptoms are a key factor in an Ovarian Cancer diagnosis.


In September 2009 the inaugural Karene O’Hare Ovarian Cancer Memorial Run was held. The 8K Run/Walk is held each year in September at New Quarter Park located adjacent to Queens Lake. September is Ovarian Cancer month and the sixth annual event will be held this year on September 6.  A 1-mile fun Run/Walk precedes the 8K Run/Walk. We raise funds to underwrite Ovarian Cancer screening and testing for uninsured and underinsured women residing in the greater Williamsburg area and also to underwrite education about the disease. It is the only annual event that raises funds to meet this community wide need.


To date we have donated $87,000 to the Lackey Free Family Medical Clinic and the Olde Towne Medical Center to help underwrite their screening and testing programs. In the last two years these programs diagnosed seven women with early stage Ovarian Cancer. All seven women were successfully treated for the disease since their diagnosis was in an early stage. The key to Ovarian Cancer is early diagnosis. Clearly, without question, these screening and testing programs saved lives. We also funded $6,000 in scholarships for three students pursuing careers in the medical profession.


Our ability to continue funding Ovarian Cancer screening and testing for women who likely could not access these services depends upon the generous support of our donors, sponsors and Run/Walk entrants. We need the help of everyone to successfully fight this disease. Everyone can join in our effort to raise the needed funds to fight the disease. You can register as an individual entrant, you can recruit friends to join with you and participate as a team, you can make a donation to help offset our run costs, or you can become a sponsor.


John M. O’Hare is the Race Director of the Hare and Tortoise 8k Run/Walk and can be reached at


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