Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Rare Cancer, Rare Friends
We lost a unique and lively woman this summer to Ovarian cancer. Her name was Jan. She said that she acquired ovarian cancer as a result of having Lynch Syndrome (see below).
She spent her life flying around the world working for Pan Am and then for Washington State. When her joyous life came to an unexpected end, she was loving her work at the helm of a ferry. Each day she would embrace the beauty of nature. I met her several years ago, along with several other women at an ovarian cancer seminar in Seattle.
Jan was strong, compassionate, fiesty, outspoken, deeply caring and full with inspiration. This whole time she was battling cancers. People amaze me.
Her sudden death, from an embolism, tanked me emotionally. I had the priviledge to hear from her the day she died, and her last words to me were to ask me to pray for another now departed sister, Judy.
I miss them, Jan and Judy. I miss many women whom I have come to know from having ovarian cancer. It is a blessing to have heard their cries and their joys.
As we embark on this month's mission to increase awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and provide ways to help women receive good care, let us be mindful that real lives, real women, real families are devastated every day from their loss due to this tricky killer.
One of the best things you can do is to ask your doctor if they have materials in their office that educate women about ovarian cancer and other gynecological cancers.
Off to the right is an icon that says "Be Brave Ask Questions" This link will provide materials for individuals and professionals interested in patient education.
In honor of the dear friends we lost this year and to cheer on those who continue to survive with ovarian cancer, I will do all I can to prevent one more late stage ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Reviewed May 2013
What is Lynch syndrome?
Lynch syndrome, often called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), is an inherited disorder that increases the risk of many types of cancer, particularly cancers of the colon (large intestine) and rectum, which are collectively referred to as colorectal cancer. People with Lynch syndrome also have an increased risk of cancers of the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder ducts, upper urinary tract, brain, and skin. Additionally, women with this disorder have a high risk of cancer of the ovaries and lining of the uterus (the endometrium). People with Lynch syndrome may occasionally have noncancerous (benign) growths (polyps) in the colon, called colon polyps. In individuals with this disorder, colon polyps occur earlier but not in greater numbers than they do in the general population.
How common is Lynch syndrome?
In the United States, about 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year. Approximately 3 to 5 percent of these cancers are caused by Lynch syndrome.
What genes are related to Lynch syndrome?
Variations in the MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2, or EPCAM gene increase the risk of developing Lynch syndrome.
The MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, and PMS2 genes are involved in the repair of mistakes that occur when DNA is copied in preparation for cell division (a process called DNA replication). Mutations in any of these genes prevent the proper repair of DNA replication mistakes. As the abnormal cells continue to divide, the accumulated mistakes can lead to uncontrolled cell growth and possibly cancer.
Mutations in the EPCAM gene also lead to impaired DNA repair, although the gene is not itself involved in this process. The EPCAM gene lies next to the MSH2 gene on chromosome 2; certain EPCAM gene mutations cause the MSH2 gene to be turned off (inactivated), interrupting DNA repair and leading to accumulated DNA mistakes.
Although mutations in these genes predispose individuals to cancer, not all people who carry these mutations develop cancerous tumors.
Read more about the EPCAM, MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, and PMS2 genes.