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Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Ovarian cancer affects approximately 2,800 Canadians per year, and while all people with ovaries have some risk of developing ovarian cancer, there are several factors that can increase your risk. In honour of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Nanny Angel Network looks at some common risk factors, as well as what signs and symptoms you should look out for.

Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common form of the three types of ovarian cancer, representing upwards of 90% of all cases of ovarian cancer. Epithelial ovarian cancer begins in the cells that cover the lining of the fallopian tube and the ovary, and it can be further divided into several, distinct sub-types: serious tumours (70% of cases), clear cell carcinoma (10-13% of cases), endometroid tumours, mucinous tumours (4% of cases), undifferentiated, and borderline ovarian tumours.

Germ cell ovarian cancer, which accounts for 5-10% of ovarian cancer cases, start from the cells from which eggs are formed (germ cells) and more often affects people in their 20s. Finally, sex cord stromal cell cancer represents less than 5% of all ovarian cancer diagnoses, and begins in the cells that hold the ovaries together, and is more likely to occur in people younger than 50. While the risk factors listed below are commonly known to increase the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer, the risk factors for the other types of ovarian cancer are less well known.

Risk for ovarian cancer increases if you have never given birth or have had difficulty conceiving, while it decreases if you have had gynecological surgery removing your fallopian tubes and/or ovaries. People with a history of endometriosis are also at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which the endometrium – tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus – grows outside of the uterus. People who have used estrogen hormone replacement therapy, particular those who have used it in the long-term and/or in large doses, are also at a higher risk. People who have used oral contraceptives, however, have a lowered risk.

The risk of developing cancer increases with age, with ovarian cancer being more common in people with ovaries aged 50-79. The age at which a person began, and stopped, menstruation is also a factor, with ovarian cancer occurring more often in people who began menstruating before age 12 or underwent menopause after age 52. It is also more common in Jewish people of Ashkenazi descent, as well as French Canadians of certain ancestries. As with all cancers, risk also increases with a family history of cancer, in particular a history of ovarian, breast, endometrial, or colorectal cancer. It also increases if you are a smoker.

Genetic mutations, such as the BRCA gene mutation, can also increase risk factor – the BRCA gene mutation is also associated with an increased risk factor of developing breast cancer. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations are involved in most forms of hereditary ovarian and breast cancer. In addition to Ashkenazi Jewish people and French Canadians of certain ancestry, Icelandic and Dutch populations are also at an increased risk for having either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.

Ovarian cancer can be difficult to detect, as there is no reliable screening test for this type of cancer. People experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer should visit their doctor, who will perform a complete pelvic exam, a transvaginal or pelvic ultrasound, and a CA-125 blood test. Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include: increased abdominal size/persistent bloating, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, pain in the pelvic or abdominal areas, and a change both/either the urgency or frequency of urination. Other, less common symptoms, include changes in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, and extreme fatigue. All of the symptoms of ovarian cancer are, unfortunately, often vague, and can be mistakenly attributed to other causes. However, if the symptoms are new, having started within the last year, persist more than three weeks, and occur frequently, it is important to see your doctor about them.

Once diagnosed, treatment for ovarian cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. For more information on ovarian cancer, including living with ovarian cancer, visit ovariancanada.org.

Sources: ovariancanada.org, mayoclinic.org, cancer.ca

Audrey Guth: 2017 Women of Worth Honouree

Audrey Guth: 2017 Women of Worth Honouree

In early 2017, the Nanny Angel Network was thrilled to announce that NAN founder Audrey Guth had been named a recipient of L’Oréal Paris’s inaugural Canadian Women of Worth program.

The signature philanthropic program embodies the L’Oréal Paris belief that ‘Every Woman Is Worth It’ by elevating and celebrating women who find beauty in giving back. The 10 Women of Worth Honourees were celebrated and awarded more than $100,000 in charitable grants at an Awards Gala on March 8, International Women’s Day, hosted by L’Oréal Paris spokesperson, award-winning actress and humanitarian, Blake Lively.

“We have been inspired and awestruck by the hundreds of Women of Worth nominations we received about extraordinary Canadian women who are selflessly volunteering their time and talents to make Canada a better place,” said Stephanie Binette, General Manager, L’Oréal Paris in Canada. “Our first Canadian Women of Worth are advocates for refugees and the homeless, and champions for women and youth in need, among many other important causes. We applaud this year’s Honourees.”

The Women of Worth program honours Canadian women who selflessly volunteer their time to serve and improve their communities. In its inaugural year in Canada, the program received more than 350 nominations which were judged by L’Oréal Paris, Points of Light, the world’s largest volunteer service organization, and esteemed volunteer leadership experts. Selection criteria was based on the impact of the cause on the social fabric of the community, the nominee’s ability to meet an unmet community need or concern, as well as the passion and innovation she has demonstrated to effect change.

2017 L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Honouree Audrey Guth with actress Blake Lively

Blogging with Cancer

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Blogging is becoming a growing hobby or past-time of many people, regardless of age, interests, and experiences. With studies showing that there are positive social effects to blogging, and in blogging about an illness specifically, the team at the Nanny Angel Network was curious about the experience of mothers who blog during their cancer treatment. Is there a community? Does it provide mothers with cancer another form of social support? With these questions in mind, NAN talked to Renee Kaiman, a blogger at My So-Called Mommy Life. Renee is a blogger, a mother, and a cancer survivor, and has benefited from the Nanny Angel Network over the past year.

Renee began blogging long before she received her diagnosis of breast cancer. In fact, she first began blogging to share her experiences as a mother. “I started blogging when my daughter was 9 months old,” Renee told NAN, explaining that all the research that she did while pregnant led to her becoming the person that her friends turned to with their questions. “A few people suggested I start a blog,” Renee said, adding “I’m so glad I did!” After her cancer diagnosis, Renee made the conscious decision not to change the way she blogged because of the cancer. “My blogging changed in that my blog now includes posts about my treatment as well as life with and after cancer,” she explained, but at the same time, she made an effort to give her readers “the same blog that I did before I was diagnosed.”

Making the decision to disclose her diagnosis to her audience wasn’t an easy one for Renee. “I wasn’t quite sure how I would disclose my diagnosis to anyone,” Renee said. “My closest family and friends knew but I sat on how I would tell everyone else for a while.” Eventually, she made the decision to share her diagnosis on her blog in the hopes that everyone she knew would read it. “I wanted my news to come from me. I didn’t want it to be a broken telephone type situation or one that included whispers,” Renee explained. “I think it also was the right thing to do because I was young, only 33, and pretty much the first person in my social circles to receive this diagnosis.” On the 1st of April, 2015, while sitting in the waiting room for her first round of chemotherapy, a post called ‘When life hands you cancer’ went live on Renee’s blog.

Renee had another reason for wanting to share her diagnosis with her blogging audience. “I decided to share my experience to show that although cancer is scary it can happen to anyone,” Renee said, “I’ve shared a lot of personal experiences about cancer, and I have been contacted by many other young mothers with breast cancer who have read my blog and could relate to my words.” When she was first diagnosed, Renee attempted to find other young woman bloggers with cancer diagnoses, but didn’t have much luck. “I hope that other young woman will find the solace that I was looking for,” Renee said, emphasizing how much it means to her when woman with cancer reading her blog do reach out to her. “It reminds me that what I’m doing is helpful to others moms,” she said.

“Even though I was surrounded by so many supportive people, you don’t often sit down and discuss your fears. My blog has given me an outlet to share my deepest feelings with those who know me and those who don’t.”

Renee believes that her blog and Instagram both played significant roles in changing her experience of cancer. “The support I have received has been amazing and so many fellow bloggers have been so incredibly supportive of me,” Renee stated. “It gave me an outlet to share how I felt. Whether it was sharing my initial diagnosis, to the night before my double mastectomy, I was able to share and let people know how I was feeling,” Renee said, adding that it made her feel supported through the most difficult parts of her cancer treatment. “I always received amazing feedback which let me know I was doing the right thing.”

There was a final reason for Renee to continue blogging through her cancer treatment, and her choice to openly discuss her cancer treatment on her blog. “Part of me also blogged during my treatment so that if anything should ever happen to me…  my kids [would] know from my words how I really felt during this whole thing,” Renee said. Overall, she hopes the message people get from her blog is a positive one. “I’m a mom like most of my readers who got a shitty diagnosis,” Renee explains. “Instead of letting it ruin my life, I decided to face it head on and not let it dictate my life. Cancer will always be a part of who I am now, but it isn’t all that I am.”

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Renee Kaiman has been blogging at My So-Called Mommy Life since 2012. The 35-year-old mother of two is a breast cancer survivor, and a recent graduate from NAN’s Nanny Angels program. You can find her online at her blog, twitter, and Instagram.

Text: Jensine Jones      Photos: Nanny Angel Network
Sources: Journal of Health CommunicationCommunication ResearchHealth Blogging