COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Sometimes called a silent killer, ovarian cancer affects close to 1 in 75 women. The deadliest form of gynecological cancer often goes undiagnosed until its advanced stages.

Sunday, several thousand people took steps to educate and empower women to fight back. 

Groups dressed in teal, the official color for ovarian cancer awareness, participated in the Strides for Hope 5K walk and run. The Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Ohio hosted the event, with NBC4’s Monica Day serving as emcee.

In addition to the 5K, vendors set up booths selling teal products and several dozen survivors posed for a photo on the COSI steps.

“It’s so encouraging to talk to people who have been survivors for many years,” said Dawn Simmons. 

Simmons is currently undergoing chemotherapy after a diagnosis several months ago. Like many women, she did not recognize the symptoms as unusual and was only diagnosed after a preventative procedure for breast cancer.

“Some of those things can be attributed to so many different things. So just be aware and talk to your doctor and bring it up,” she stressed.

Though typically associated with post-menopausal women, ovarian cancer affects women and girls of all ages. Sarah Ludinich noticed discomfort while attending Findlay University and was diagnosed just after her 21st birthday.

“The symptoms of ovarian cancer are pretty much the symptoms of being a woman. So it’s easy to just kind of push them to the side,” she said. “But knowing now, I can look back months and I was having these symptoms.”

Ludinich’s cancer had advanced to stage two before it was discovered. Now 23, she’s undergoing more chemotherapy and hoping to graduate in May from college.

She echoed other women’s advice about paying attention to warning signs and listening to one’s body.

“If you think something’s wrong, odds are it probably is, so go get it checked out. And if you’re wrong, then you got a thorough exam and everything’s fine. But if you’re right… If you catch it early, that’s the best,” she said.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer can be subtle at first and intensify as the disease progresses. They most commonly include the following:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms, such as urgency or frequency

Other symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Back pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Abdominal swelling with weight loss

If symptoms last more than a few weeks, it’s important to talk to your gynecologist or physician.

Find resources from the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Ohio by clicking here.