Greenwich Kicks-Off Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month


By Richard Kaufman

The SoulCycle on Mason Street in Greenwich was buzzing on Tuesday night, as residents gathered for a spin class to sweat for a good cause.

Over $24,000 was raised to support the MAT Program, which was established earlier this year by town resident, Kaile Zagger, and Dr. Elena Ratner, associate professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine.

Named after Zagger’s mother, Marilyn Ann Trahan (MAT), who lost her battle with ovarian cancer 20 years ago at the age of 46, the initiative is the first of its kind in the United States. It consists of a rigorous curriculum that empowers and educates the medical provider community so they can recognize the early signs of ovarian and breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, 300,000 new cases of breast and ovarian cancer were diagnosed in the United States last year, and of those, 55,000 women died. Ovarian cancer is particularly difficult to recognize in its early stages, so the rate of death is the highest among all female reproductive cancers.

The fundraiser also kicked-off Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in Greenwich, as First Selectman Peter Tesei was on hand to present a proclamation. This month, the exterior of Town Hall is decorated with teal-colored lights, and businesses around town will turn teal, too.

“You are making a difference by what you’re doing tonight, and throughout the year by advocating for early intervention and education about symptoms of ovarian cancer,” said Tesei to the MAT Program leadership team. “We’ve all been touched by cancer in some way. It’s an insidious disease and one that we can overcome, and particularly overcome if we have early intervention and knowledge about it.”

The program has grown tremendously since it was established four-and-a-half months ago.

Twenty-three medical providers from Greenwich Hospital received MAT Designation in July, and they’re now armed with the tools to save lives. There will be another free, one hour training session, for all medical professionals on Sept. 25 in Greenwich.

The MAT Program will soon be launched in Stamford, at the remaining Yale affiliated hospitals and New York Presbyterian Health System. The goal is to designate and train 3,000 providers by Dec. 31, 2019.

On Tuesday, Zagger thanked the nearly 60 residents who attended the fundraiser before they began their 45 minute spin class.

“Every 39 seconds, a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Eighty percent of those diagnoses are late stage. Studies have shown that ovarian cancer patients have been sick for more than 24 months and have seen anywhere between 4-6 physicians with no diagnosis or a misdiagnosis,” Zagger said.

“Our hope is with this educational platform, we will change the story. We fundamentally believe that we are already doing that. We’ll detect the cancers earlier and prevent them altogether, because we will fight to keep our physicians in front of the disease instead of reacting to the disease.”

Dr. Elena Ratner also thanked everyone for contributing and helping MAT grow.

“I have diagnosed women earlier because of all of you. I have saved lives, and you have saved lives because of what you have done,” she said. “What we are trying to do is incredible. We’re trying to change the story; we’re trying to change the course of this disease that has not been able to be changed forever.”

Diane Powis, MAT Program’s chief spokeswoman, was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2013 after experiencing “whispering” symptoms and getting misdiagnosed for nine months. She said on Tuesday that she feels lucky to be alive, and added that there’s still a lot to do to protect women from breast and ovarian cancer.

“Although we’re sitting on stationary bikes, we are moving at warp speed to make a difference,” Powis said.

For more information on the MAT Program, go to matdesignation.org.

About Author: Richard Kaufman

Richard Kaufman, general assignment reporter at the Sentinel, graduated from Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., in 2011 with a degree in journalism/communications. Having grown up in nearby Westchester County, Richard is familiar with the area and everything it has to offer. To get in contact with Richard, you can email him at richard@greenwichsentinel.com

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