Whether you normally choose green, black or white tea, Bea Herron and a handful of volunteers with the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition's Tucson Chapter hope Tucsonans will give teal a try.
They will hold their Third Annual Teal Tea to "Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer" at 2 p.m. Sept. 8.
"Selfishly, I would hope that we make a lot of money to educate people about ovarian cancer and that we touch the lives of newly diagnosed women to let them know there is hope," said Herron, coordinator of the upcoming fundraiser, one of several local events that will promote September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
"One of the things that has been wonderful for me is meeting women who are six or seven or 10 or 12 years out. It gives you hope that there is life after ovarian cancer," she said.
Herron, 58, was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer in July 2011. She has finished chemotherapy and is cancer-free. She said organizing the tea has let her experience camaraderie with some very special women.
"There is this sisterhood of other people who understand what you have gone through and/or are going through. It's unfortunate that you are meeting these amazing women under these circumstances, but the upside of ovarian cancer is that you get to meet many wonderful people," Herron said.
As with many women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Herron said her diagnosis was completely unexpected. Her only symptom was discomfort initially diagnosed by a primary-care physician as heartburn. Further tests revealed ovarian cancer.
Many women are unaware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, which are nonspecific and often attributed to other conditions, said Margaret Hoeft, education and awareness chair of the nonprofit cancer coalition's Tucson chapter.
Hoeft said a cornerstone of ovarian cancer awareness includes promoting information about the fact that the symptoms are not silent. The group's outreach emphasizes four main symptoms that may indicate an occurrence of the disease: extreme fatigue; bloating and/or feeling full quickly when eating; bowel issues, which can include constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain or digestive problems; and bladder issues such as the need to urinate frequently.
Hoeft recommends seeing a physician if any symptoms persist for more than two weeks. The cancer group says only 19 percent of cases are discovered in the early stages, and the organization is trying to improve that statistic.
"About 220,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer a year. Only about 22,000 will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but the sad thing is that many of those will die," Hoeft said. "The mortality rate is about 15,000 a year for ovarian cancer because we don't have a screening test. A pap test for cervical cancer doesn't tell you about ovarian cancer."
A blood test known as CA-125 can test for ovarian cancer but is often not conclusive; ultrasound with transvaginal sonography and a rectovaginal examination are other diagnostic tools, along with CT scans and X-rays, but a biopsy is necessary to accurately confirm the disease.
"I think ovarian cancer is still one of the last frontiers, so to speak," Hoeft said. "It is a tough cancer; 70 percent of us are gone by five years, and so many women just don't want to talk about it. One woman I know didn't want to be involved in the coalition because she said she didn't want ovarian cancer to rule her life, but as my daughter said, 'It is not consuming you; you are taking it another step and helping other people.' "
Herron is gratified that awareness about ovarian cancer is growing through the Teal Tea and other local "Teal" events. She said volunteers have helped organize events such as "Teal Toes" - highlighting teal pedicures - at salons such as Gadabout, Bliss and Salon Nouveau; and Teal Windows, featuring teal window displays and ovarian cancer literature at local retailers such as Fresh Produce, Lucy, Maya Palace, Papyrus and Twice as Nice.
Information will also be distributed each Monday in September at Maynards Market & Kitchen and each Wednesday at La Encantada.
"We started off small, but every year we get bigger," Hoeft said. "Everyone can participate and do what they like to do, and that is what I love about this. It is a true grass-roots effort for sure."
if you go
Ovarian Cancer Symposium
• When: 8 a.m.-noon Saturday
• Where: Kiewit Auditorium, University of Arizona Cancer Center, 1515 N. Campbell Ave.
• Cost: Free
• RSVP: Space is limited and reservations are suggested. Reserve a spot by calling the NOCC Tucson Chapter at 731-0399.
• On the schedule: The program, for ovarian cancer survivors and their families and friends, features keynote speaker Dr. David Alberts, director of the UA Cancer Center.
Panel discussions with physicians and health-care providers from the Cancer Center and Arizona Oncology will address advances in treatment options and clinical trials; genetic issues; risk factors; screening and prevention; and management of recurrent disease.
The Third Annual Teal Tea
• When: 2-4 p.m. Sept. 8
• Where: Sheraton Tucson Hotel & Suites, 5151 E. Grant Road
• Cost: $40 per person
Festivities includes a traditional English tea with sandwiches, scones and sweets along with a silent auction featuring jewelry, gift baskets and original artwork by local artists. The program, which focuses on caregivers, will also include a slide show in celebration of survivors and a memorial tribute to those who have lost their battle to ovarian cancer.
• For reservations or more information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 342-4599.