Among the most aware — and at the forefront of the fight — are 2 Westporters.
Both hold key positions with Aspira Women’s Health. The company develops diagnostic tools for physicians.
Kaile Zagger is chief operating officer. Jennifer Van Aken serves as chief marketing officer.
“Unfortunately, the onset of ovarian cancer is usually quite insidious,” Zagger says.
“Symptoms mimic less serious conditions,” Zagger says. “Thousands of women die every year from this cancer—–and they don’t have to.”
Early detection is crucial. Yet diagnosis is usually made at the late disease stage, when 5-year survival rates can be as low as 17%.
“We must help women and their doctors recognize the subtle symptoms, like bloating, frequent urination, feeling full after eating, lower back pain — and for women to self-advocate so we can optimize women’s healthcare,” Van Aken adds.
Women see on average 6 different doctors over almost 2 years of experiencing those symptoms before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
For over 2 decades, at Fortune 100 companies and in private equity, Zagger has encouraged women to be strong and independent in the workforce and community.
It has not been easy. When Zagger was 13, her mother — just 40 — was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer. She fought valiantly, but died 6 years later.
Inspired by her mother, Zagger went on to college. Despite little support and few resources, she vowed to make a difference in women’s healthcare.
“Women are incredibly capable and strong,” Zagger says. “Yet I am very concerned about the impacts that COVID has had on women in the workforce. I am committed to ensuring we do not experience a societal regression of opportunities and leadership positions for women.”
Zagger joined Aspira Women’s Health in 2020, determined to help other women avoid her mother’s fate. She added Van Aken — who has over 20 years of brand management expertise with Unilver, L’Oreal and Beiersdorf — to her leadership team in a key role.
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is over. But Zagger, Van Aken, and Aspira Women’s Health’s work continues.