Each year, September is named as National Ovarian Cancer Month. This awareness month was initiated to educate communities on the importance of early detection and intervention in the fight against ovarian cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, ovarian cancer only affects a small percentage of women, but because women are more likely to have symptoms once the disease has spread, it can become dangerous. However, research has shown that the survival rate for women with ovarian cancer has steadily improved in recent years, thanks to increased awareness about the disease. For those impacted by ovarian cancer, early detection is often the most important factor in determining treatment success.

It is estimated that in 2019, approximately 22,530 women will be newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer while 13,980 women will die from the disease. On average, the five-year survival rate of ovarian cancer is 46%. However, according to the American Cancer Society, when ovarian cancer is found at an early, localized stage, 94% of patients can live longer than five years. Unfortunately, only one in five women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at this stage. Unlike many other types of cancers, ovarian cancer is often difficult to diagnosis at early stages due to limited testing options and the lack of early warning signs or symptoms. Moreover, while ovarian cancer is common in women over the age of 63 and those with a family history, there are often several women who are diagnosed with the disease that do not fall into these risk categories.

Understanding the importance that early detection is key to treatment success, members of the Texas House and Senate made improving patient access to cancer screenings and treatments a priority during the 84th legislative session. One of these measures was House Bill 2813, which expanded health insurance plans in Texas to include ovarian cancer screenings as part of annual wellness exams for women. Also, with the passage of House Bill 21, known as the “Right to Try Act”, patients with terminal illnesses, including advanced forms of ovarian cancer, have increased access to potentially life-saving treatments. In addition to these two bills, the legislature also allocated additional resources towards cancer research and prevention programs, including those specifically related to women’s health. By ensuring more women are regularly tested for ovarian cancer, medical professionals will have a better opportunity to detect and treat the disease earlier.

In the 86th legislative session, members passed HB 39, which repealed time limitations on the award of grants by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). CPRIT, created in 2007, is charged by the Texas Legislature to grow and accelerate the potential for breakthroughs in cancer preventions and cancer cures in Texas. For more information about CPRIT, visit Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas.

To learn more about the ovarian cancer and the significance of this awareness month, please visit the National Cancer Institute. Additional information about risk factors and prevention information is also available on by visiting American Cancer Society.

If you would like to review more about the legislature, please visit the Texas Legislature online at the Texas Legislature Online. If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office; 361-949-4603).

– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32

Rep. Hunter represents Nueces County (Part). He can be contacted at todd.hunter@house.state.tx.us or at 512-463-0672.