by Pamela Rittenhouse September 25, 2015
Why take the time to consider famous women who have faced one of the gynecologic (GYN) cancers? Well, let’s face it. There is something about us that usually finds those stories interesting, and we are more likely to stop and read about a celebrity’s encounter with a serious disease. In doing so, there is a chance we’ll learn something that might help us recognize it if the signs of one of those diseases show up for us or a relative or friend. So, here we go.
Coretta Scott King
After the death of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King carried on the slain Civil Rights activist’s legacy and took an active approach in the struggle for racial equality. Scott King was also an ardent supporter in the women’s movement and LBGT fight for equality. She remained active up until her health started to deteriorate in 2005. Scott King checked into a medical facility in Mexico under a different name for holistic therapy to treat complications of a stroke and advanced stages of ovarian cancer. She passed away in Mexico in January of 2006.
Often known as Evita, Eva Peron was the first lady of Argentina. She died in the early 1950s when she was only 33 of advanced cervical cancer. Interestingly, her diagnosis was kept a secret from the public and from her. How sad – in our world today, cervical cancer can be screened for prevention or early diagnosis and successful treatment.
The most decorated gymnast in U.S. history, Shannon Miller won seven Olympic medals and many others in national and international competitions. But her most important victory to date isn’t gold, silver, or bronze – it’s teal. That’s the color for ovarian cancer awareness. At the age of 33, Miller was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. She has continued to speak out so that other women can learn from her.
More Famous Names We Can Learn From about GYN Cancers
As the star of the TV show, ‘The Nanny,’ Fran Drescher made many of us laugh. It was no laughing matter, though, when the actress was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Unlike ovarian cancer, uterine cancer can be fairly easily diagnosed in its early stages and successfully treated. Dresher’s was not diagnosed early, and she has put a lot of effort into awareness so that other women will not have to endure what she did.
Bates first made her acting debut in theater before switching to film and television. She rose to prominence after walking away with both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress thanks to her role in the 1990 psychological thriller “Misery.” In 2002, Bates took some time off after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After undergoing treatment, Bates was free and clear to return back to her hectic schedule. However, two years ago Bates announced on twitter than she had been diagnosed breast cancer and had a double mastectomy.
Millions of women have grown up reading Judy Blume’s books. The famed author was one of the first to write novels for teenagers that discussed sensitive topics like racism, menstruation, bullying and divorce. In 2012, Blume penned a post on her blog that brought many of her readers to tears. She revealed she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and 18 years earlier she had undergone a hysterectomy due to cervical cancer.
There are still more names. Gilda Radner. Liz Lange. Jessica Tandy. Madeline Kahn. Dinah Shore. Loretta Young. Those aren’t all the names of celebrities who faced GYN cancers. But they make the point. If they faced them, we might, too. So?
Here’s What We Should Watch For
According to the American Cancer Society, these can be signs of one of the GYN cancers:
- abnormal vagina bleeding or discharge
- abdominal pain
- pelvic pain or pressure
- frequent urination
- trouble eating
- changes in bathroom habits
- itching or burning of the vulva
- change in color of the vulva or skin such as a rash, sores or warts
While these are among the most common early symptoms of the GYN cancers, they’re also common in a lot of other far less serious conditions, which makes them easy to overlook or brush off. If they happen and don’t disappear after just a day or two, talk to your doctor. Be smart. Ask questions.