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Ceremony Lights Flames Against Women’s Cancer

Ceremony Lights Flames Against Women’s Cancer

Reading of Patient Names Honors Long Islanders Affected by Gynecologic Cancers

STONY BROOK, N.Y., September 28, 2011 – Physicians, nurses and staff of the Stony Brook University Cancer Center 

Patients, their families, and Stony Brook University Cancer Center staff held their lit candles high in a show of solidarity against gynecologic cancers and the power of survivorship.

assembled with survivors of ovarian, uterine, cervical, and other forms of gynecologic cancers, along with their families, during the annual Candlelight Ceremony to honor patients, living or deceased, affected by these cancers. The candles lit up the September 19 evening within the gathering outside the Cancer Center as the names of more than 100 patients were read. The ceremony symbolized the solidarity to support survivorship and the search for cures. September is National Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month. 

The Candlelight Ceremony is sponsored by the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and Long Island OCEANS (Ovarian Cancer Education Advocacy Network and Support), a grassroots non-profit support group and advocacy organization established in 2004. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 80,000 women are diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer each year and collectively the diseases will take the lives of nearly 28,000. 

“We have made strides in treating patients with gynecologic cancer, and current treatments help extend the lives of many, but we need to push further to better understand the causes of each of these diseases to develop targeted therapies that lead to cures,” says Michael L. Pearl, M.D., Professor and Director, Division of Gynecologic Oncology. 

Dr. Pearl emphasizes that with preventive measures against diseases like cervical cancer, as well as the emergence of less invasive surgical procedures, radiation therapies centered on precise and localized treatment, and clinical trials to develop more effective and less toxic chemotherapies, many patients are responding positively to treatment and with an improved quality of life. Survivors speaking at the ceremony echoed these advances in their personal journeys, and they stressed the importance of having a positive attitude and living life as normally as possible during treatment and beyond. 

Embodying positivity as a patient was Marylou Stewart, a long-time Stony Brook employee and eight-year survivor of ovarian cancer. Ms. Stewart passed away earlier this year. The ceremony held a special remembrance for Ms. Stewart, a founding member of Long Island OCEANS, member of the SBU Cancer Center’s Patient Advisory Board, and co-founder of Survivors Teaching Students, an initiative in which cancer survivors educate medical and nursing students about issues in survivorship from the point of view of patients. 

Long Island OCEANS presented a $5,000 check in honor of Marylou Stewart to Dr. Pearl and his practice partner, Melissa Henretta, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, to help support the Gynecologic Oncology Fund. Established through the Division, the Fund supports collaborative research in gynecologic oncology. 

The Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Stony Brook is the only academic subspecialty gynecology oncology practice in Suffolk County. The Division provides comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for women with known or suspected gynecologic cancers, as well as for those with complicated gynecologic surgical and selected pre-invasive condition. The Division also conducts research into the development and treatment of gynecologic cancers and educates healthcare professionals and the public about gynecologic cancers and pre-cancerous conditions.

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