Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

By: Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month.  According to the National Cancer Institute, ovarian cancer forms in the tissues of the ovary (one of a pair of female reproductive glands where the ova or eggs are formed).  It is estimated that 22,240 new cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2013 and there will be 14,030 deaths from the disease this year.

Ovarian cancer can be hard to diagnose and symptoms can be misread as other issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, chronic constipation or food sensitivity.  Early detection and screening can save lives.  While there is still not a standard screening test, it’s important for women to visit their gynecologist annually for pelvic exam and other basic physical exam.

As an oncology nutrition specialist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, MA for the past 13 years, I have worked with many ovarian cancer survivors. Overall, eating a healthy plant-based diet, avoiding smoking, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce cancer risk.  In terms of ovarian cancer specifically, obesity is a risk factor for developing this form of cancer and being obese also increases the risk of death from the disease. Excess body fat especially during teenage years is of particular risk for young women.  Pregnancy and breastfeeding may also help to reduce a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and vaccine therapy.  Weight management and clinically appropriate weight loss is important for overweight women going through certain types of treatment.  For some women, symptom management and keeping weight on can be a struggle during treatment.  Constipation is common and as the cancer progresses, risk for bowel obstruction can become a serious concern.  Juicing offers a way for women with ovarian cancer at risk for bowel obstruction to maintain their fruit and vegetable intake, because the insoluble or “roughage/high residue forming” fibers are removed.  Download Dana Farber’s new, free Nutrition App that I worked on, which includes many more recipes and tips.

In terms of reducing risk through diet, beyond obesity prevention and weight management specific eating patterns and foods are being studied for their protective or risk raising effects.  Research is demonstrating that sugary beverages, overall sugar intake and dairy or excessive calcium consumption, including supplements, may increase risk, while consuming veggies, drinking tea, having an adequate Vitamin D blood level and eating flax seed may help reduce risk.  In fact, a 2004 study found that women with a high level of vegetable intake had a significantly lower risk of developing ovarian cancer.  This risk decreased by 10% for each added serving of veggies maintained day to day.

Find out how to reduce your risk of Ovarian Cancer.

Check out some veggie heavy juices here:

Twist of Lime and Fennel Juice
Super Green Detox Juice
Rainbow Summer Juice

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Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Stacy is a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and an Integrative Nutritionist. She consults for various companies, focusing on health, wellness and innovative strategies to help increase individual’s fruit and vegetable intake. Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist; she holds a BS degree in Dietetics from Indiana University, completed her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching affiliates, in Boston, MA, with more than 20 years of experience. Stacy created and now serves as project manager and lead writer for nutrition services content on the Dana Farber website and the affiliated, nationally recognized nutrition app. Stacy is regularly featured on TV, radio, print and social media on behalf of Dana Farber and other organizations. Together with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy PsyD, they have a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC. Stacy is an adjunct professor in Wellness and Health Coaching at William James College, currently teaching a graduate course in Health Coaching. Stacy is featured in the award winning documentary films, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2,” and serves on the Reboot with Joe Medical Advisory Board. Stacy lives in Wellesley with her husband, two sons and three dogs. She enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking and spending time with friends and family. Stacy is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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