Photo by Naomi SieEel
and late menopause.
Women with known risk fac-
tors and symptoms should con-
sult their doctors.
Although no test has proven
accurate in asymptomatic
women, a combination of a sim-
ple blood test (CAl25), ultra-
sound and surgical biopsy can
diagnose ovarian cancer with a
high degree of accuracy accord-
ing to a fact sheet supplied by
Rep. Levin's office.
Yet, because so few people
know this information, doctors
and other health care profession-
als often misread these symp-
toms. Women with ovarian can-
cer, Silver found, have been sent
for unnecessary colonoscopies,
Johanna and younger sister Sheryl at their brother
hormonal treatment and even
put on anti-depressants. The can- Daniel's bar mitzvah in 1957
cer does not show up in routine
cancer we have," said Dr. Beth Y
Karlan, director of gynecologic oncology
While 70 percent of women who
Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los
have ovarian cancer reported having
in Silver's supplement.
symptoms for at least three months
Gordon, diagnosed with ovarian can-
before being diagnosed, only 25-30 per-
cer in January 1997, immediately had
cent of these cases are discovered early.
the first of several surgeries. There for
And ovarian cancer is not the only
the surgery, Silver didn't leave her sister
gynecologic cancer women need more
for six months.
information about, Silver says.
"My sister was a beautiful woman
Actress Fran Drescher, who survived
inside and out," Silver says.
gynecological cancer, describes her two-
Johanna went to Murnford High in
year experience, seeing eight different
Detroit and got her teaching degree
doctors, with worsening symptoms,
from the University of Michigan in Ann
before discovering she had uterine can-
Arbor. Married to attorney Louis
cer. She, too, is spreading the word to
Gordon in 1987 until her death, she
make a difference for other women.
one daughter by a prior marriage,
Her persistence saved her life,
Wendy Perkins, 33, who lives in Florida.
Drescher says, in both of Silver's supple-
She taught English and humanities at
ments. But she needed a radical hys-
Southfield-Lathrup High School before
terectomy, "a bitter pill to swallow" for a
retiring in the early 1990s.
woman who never had children,
"Johanna had a lot to live for," Silver
Drescher says. "If only I knew the early
says. "She fought hard for her life, will-
warning sips or what to ask for."
ing to try clinical trials, traditional and
Together, the sisters frequently went
to Gilda's Club in Royal Oak for sup-
Months before Johanna Gordon's fateful
port and information sharing, and to
visit with her sister in Florida, she expe-
the annual conference of the Ovarian
rienced symptoms a healthy woman
Cancer National Alliance in
could easily ignore. Had she known her
D.C., for access to leading
risk factors for ovarian cancer, however,
she would have seen her doctor immedi-
ately or even discussed this cancer with
"You never realize how much you love
her doctor years earlier to possibly pre-
someone until you're fighting for their
life," says Silver, who graduated from
Her risk factors included that she was
Cass Technical High School in Detroit,
an Ashkenazic Jew older than 50 and at
and the University of California.
54 had not begun menopause.
Sadly, Silver realized at these meetings
Silver says that had her sister been
that her sister's story was repeated over
aware of her risk factors, she could have
and over again around the country.
considered preventive measures, like tak-
While studies revealed the symptoms
ing birth control pills in her late 40s,
and risk factors for this cancer, the infor-
which is "the most effective non-surgical
method of reducing the risk for ovarian
FROM GRIEF on page 69
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