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Madison 'Turns Teal' to Raise Ovarian Cancer Awareness

The sixth annual campaign to raise awareness of the early warning signs of ovarian cancer was founded by a woman from Chatham.

Trees and streetlights in Madison are sporting teal ribbons this September as part of a campaign to raise awareness of ovarian cancer.

Turn the Towns Teal is a national campaign started by a woman from Chatham to promote awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Volunteers tie biodegradable teal ribbons around trees and distribute symptom cards and literature at such local places as grocery stores, YMCAs and shopping malls.

The campaign places a special emphasis on speaking to women's groups throughout the month to make them aware of the subtle symptoms of the disease.

Founded in 2007 by Gail MacNeil of Chatham, Turn the Towns Teal’s 2010 campaign had over 200 community participants nationwide, and was recognized by the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition when they asked to get involved last year.

MacNeil was diagnosed with Stage III C ovarian cancer in 1997. She asked her doctor about her symptoms on three separate occasions, but her gynecologist said they were signs of middle age.

MacNeil's sister-in-law, Jane, now serves as the president of Turn The Towns Teal. She said of Gail, "Had she known the symptoms of ovarian cancer, she would have immediately sought the advice of a gynecological oncologist.”

MacNeil's story is not uncommon. “Since there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer and the subtle symptoms are very often misdiagnosed. All too often this disease is not found until it’s in the late stages," said Jane.

"When ovarian cancer is detected in the early stages, the survival rate is 90 to 95% successful," Jane said.

MacNeil and two other women who were treated for ovarian cancer at Morristown Memorial Hospital created Kaleidoscope of Hope in 2000 to raise funds to help in the fight. But funds weren't all that she saw as being necessary.

Now, Turn The Towns Teal helps raise awareness about early detection for ovarian cancer.

"What we do is we have representatives in all of these towns and we send a letter to the mayor of each town asking for permission to put up the ribbons," Jane said. "We also give them a proclamation to sign stating that it is a part of National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (September)."

MacNeil died in 2008. Jane now serves as the president of Turn the Towns Teal, which originated through Kaleidoscope of Hope.

According to the American Cancer Society, some symptoms include:

  • abdominal swelling or bloating,
  • pelvic pressure or stomach pain,
  • trouble eating or feeling full quickly,
  • and urinary urgency or frequency.

If any of these symptoms persist for a couple of weeks, women are encouraged seek medical attention with a gynecologist or a gynecological oncologist.

Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women according to the American Cancer Society, and it estimates about 13,850 women will die by the end of this year from the disease.

The group also states that the risk of a woman getting invasive ovarian cancer in her lifetime is 1-in-71 and her chance of dying from it is 1-in-95.

Some of the community participants in the 2011 Turn the Towns Teal campaign included Madison, Chatham, Montville, Summit, Livingston and Morristown.

Interested volunteers can order ribbons, campaign pamphlets and symptom cards to distribute at Turn the Towns Teal's website or through their Facebook page.

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