A Movement Takes Flight: Spreading the Word
Three visionary organizations join hands to promote research, educate the public and give patients a voice.
By Charlene Koski and Melinda Wenner
CEO, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
In 2006 the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) conducted an online survey of 1,000 women. The goal: to find out what they knew about ovarian cancer. The coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to educating the public about ovarian cancer, would use the findings to help them develop an education campaign.
The results confirmed suspicions.Only 15 percent of the women surveyed were familiar with ovarian cancer’s symptoms, and 82 percent had never spoken with their doctor about the disease. Of that 82 percent, more than half said they didn’t think ovarian cancer was an important issue because their doctors had never brought it up. Even more discouraging, 67 percent of women thought their annual Pap test could diagnose ovarian cancer (it can’t) and about a third believed taking birth control pills increases the risk of developing the disease (it doesn’t). “We knew we needed to do something,” says Jane Langridge, the coalition’s chief executive officer. She began searching for articles about ovarian cancer and quickly discovered that very few had been written. That gave her a place to start.
Langridge and the entire organization decided to launch a campaign that would increase coverage of ovarian cancer. They called the campaign Break the Silence to point out the lack of media attention the disease receives. They set out to spark media interest and hoped that by doing so, they would increase awareness and simultaneously educate more women about the disease. To increase media coverage, Langridge began scheduling meetings with editors of national women’s magazines while local representatives began meeting with local media outlets.
Their efforts paid off.Many women’s magazines published articles on ovarian cancer and more are scheduled to run stories later this year. “Many women read these magazines,” Langridge says, estimating that more than 100 million women in the last year saw some type of media coverage that stemmed from NOCC’s efforts. Before long the coalition began getting phone calls from women—and men—who had read or heard something about ovarian cancer and wanted more information. A physician told Langridge that a woman who had seen NOCC’s campaign recognized the symptoms in herself and came in to ask about them. She was quickly diagnosed with early-stage ovarian cancer.
“We are excited by the results” of the Break the Silence campaign, she says, “but we still have a long way to go. There should be no shame in talking about ovarian cancer, and we won’t rest until we do a survey and instead of 15 percent of women knowing about the symptoms, 80 or even 90 percent know about the disease.”