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Upstate Cancer Center receives $50K grant from Ovarian Cancer Research Fund to launch support program for patients with gynecologic cancers

Upstate Cancer Center receives $50K grant from Ovarian Cancer Research Fund to launch support program for patients with gynecologic cancers

SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- The Upstate Foundation has received a $50,000 grant from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF) to establish a “Woman to Woman” program at the Upstate Cancer Center. Woman to Woman is a patient support program that pairs gynecologic cancer patients with trained and supervised survivor volunteers to provide one-on-one emotional support and mentoring, as well as promote education and self-advocacy. Upstate is one of only six institutions nationwide to receive the 2015 funding.

Woman to Woman was founded in 2003 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. In 2011, the OCRF, the largest charity in the United States funding ovarian cancer research, expanded the program nationally. Over the past four years, OCRF has grown its signature Woman to Woman gynecologic cancer patient support program to 22 sites at hospitals in 16 states. QVC is the national sponsor of the Woman to Woman program.

“It was so rewarding to secure funding from OCRF to establish the Woman to Woman program at the Upstate Cancer Center,” said Terry Toscano Shenfeld, director of foundation relations at the Upstate Foundation. “We are excited to begin this new partnership with OCRF, which is a first for them as well in upstate New York.”

The Upstate Cancer Center joins Cooper University Hospital, Camden, N.J.; Shanti Project/Kaiser Permanente, San Francisco; Northside Hospital Cancer Center, Atlanta; the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Tennessee Cancer Institute, Knoxville, as new Woman to Woman program sites.

Woman to Woman will be a new program in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology which provides comprehensive care for women with gynecologic malignancies.

“The Woman to Woman program will help patients better cope after a gynecologic cancer diagnosis knowing they are not alone in their journey. Many women feel overwhelmed, scared and isolated even when surrounded by a supportive family network,” said Rinki Agarwal, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and physician champion of the new program. “The heart and soul of this program will be our team of survivor mentors who will offer hope, along with empathy and insights that can only come from someone with their own personal gynecologic cancer experience.”

“The Upstate Cancer Center is pleased to add Woman to Woman to our patient-centered programs to help reach more women and provide them with firsthand knowledge and experience by others who have gone through this personally,” said Leslie Kohman, MD, medical director of the Upstate Cancer Center.

Woman to Woman will begin in November with recruiting and training survivor volunteers who will serve as mentors to patients newly diagnosed with ovarian, cervical, uterine, and other cancers of the reproductive organs. The program will also offer a patient assistance fund to provide financial support for women and their families.

The program will work with long-standing partner, Hope for Heather, a non-profit organization named in memory of Heather Weeks that raises money for ovarian cancer research, education and community support.

“Woman to Woman mirrors our mission of support and awareness in a community setting,” said Frieda Weeks, executive director and founder of Hope for Heather Ovarian Cancer. “Recently, we have started to spread the message of ‘tell a woman’ because it’s important to tell a woman you know and love about the signs and symptoms of a silent killer such as ovarian cancer. We espouse Woman to Woman because it provides one of the most important aspects that leads to a sisterhood of survivors - support.”

It is estimated that there will be about 98,000 new cases diagnosed and approximately 30,000 deaths from gynecologic cancers in the United States this year, according to the American Cancer Society. In the United States, ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths than all other gynecologic cancers combined, and ranks as the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women.

Caption: Celebrating the $50,000 grant to establish a gynecologic cancer support program are Gary Weeks, Hope for Heather; Terry Toscano Shenfeld, The Upstate Foundation; Frieda Weeks, Hope for Heather; Rinki Agarwal, MD, Upstate Cancer Center; Linda Veit and Leslie Kohman, MD, of the Upstate Cancer Center