Anoka ‘Turning the Town Teal’ to raise awareness

Anoka will be turning itself teal next weekend to recognize the fight against ovarian cancer.

Anoka tealThe city has proclaimed September Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and at the request of resident Judy Kotaska, will be turning the town teal.

Kotaska’s sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer more than two years ago, at the age of 42.

She hopes to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, which can be difficult to diagnose in its earliest stages.

Ovarian cancer is the growth of abnormal malignant cells that begins in the ovaries, according to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. No screening test exists to test all women for ovarian cancer, although tests do exist for women who are at high risk.

The American Cancer Society estimates that this year more than 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and more than 14,030 women will die of the disease.

The alliance says that 93 percent of women diagnosed in the early stages survive five years.

Many of its symptoms mimic premenstrual syndrome.

According to the Mayo Clinic, potential symptoms of ovarian cancer include:

• Pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort

• Vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea and indigestion

• Frequency or urgency of urination in absence of infection

• Unexplained changes in bowel habits

• Unexplained weight gain or weight loss

• Pelvic or abdominal swelling, bloating or feeling of fullness

• Ongoing unusual fatigue

• Menstrual changes

• Pain during sex

• Back pain

Kotaska said her sister, Rene Geneau of Morris, Ill., had complained about her belly constantly being full.

Her doctors told her to drink more water to flush out her system.

“If you’re not sure, you should really go to a gynecologist/oncologist,” Kotaska said. “The symptoms can be vague and sublet.”

That’s particularly true if the symptoms go on for two or three weeks.

Kotaska was busy over the weekend placing the teal ribbons on light posts in downtown Anoka.

There will also be educational materials about the symptoms and signs of ovarian cancer at many of the downtown businesses.

Next weekend, the city will also turn the lights on the Rum River Bridge teal, along with the fountain at the City Hall Plaza and the electronic reader board.

While Kotaska said there isn’t a lot cancer in her family’s history, she had also been battling oral cancer for the last 15 years. Soon she will undergo a major surgery to remove cancerous tissue from the inside of her mouth and gums.

She also reminds her own daughters, now in their 30s, to be vigilant about watching for the signs of ovarian cancer.

Turn the Towns Teal is a national campaign to promote awareness of ovarian cancer and its silent symptoms. It was founded in 2007 by New Jersey woman Gail MacNeil who battled ovarian cancer for 10 years. MacNeil died in 2008.

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Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]