On September 22, the third Annual Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer will take place in Madison, Conn. The walk’s top fundraising team, Natalie’s Tigers, which has raised more than $7,000, is fronted by little Natalie Cosman – who, at 8 years old, is a survivor of the disease.
“Our goal is to make people realize it can happen to any female at any age,” Natalie’s mother, Melinda Cosman, told FoxNews.com. “We want to get the word out there about the disease the way it should be out there.”
Natalie’s battle started one year ago, when she started complaining of chronic stomach pain. Doctors brushed it off as a stomach virus or gas buildup – until one day, when the pain became so bad, Natalie’s parents rushed her to the hospital.
Suspecting appendicitis, doctors ordered an ultrasound and found a 7-centimeter cyst on Natalie’s right ovary. A biopsy confirmed the cyst was a tumor, and Natalie was diagnosed with stage II ovarian cancer.
“I was shocked, especially by what kind of cancer it was,” Cosman said. “A 7 year old with ovarian cancer is quite shocking.”
‘A silent killer’
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. Ovarian cancer is known as a 'silent killer' because there is little awareness and high mortality rates associated with the disease. In 2012, there will be 22,280 new cases of ovarian cancer and 15,500 deaths from ovarian cancer, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society.
While ovarian cancer is ranked ninth in prevalence among women – lagging far behind breast and lung cancer – it ranks fifth in women’s cancer deaths. More than half of women diagnosed die within five years.
Children and young women typically develop a rare subtype of the disease – it arises in the germ cell, which is responsible for making eggs, or in the cells that support the eggs, according to Dr. Robert DeBernardo, a gynecological oncologist at UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. This cancer subtype usually remains confined to one ovary and is highly treatable if caught early.