Cancer survivors teach students at Medical College

WAUWATOSA (WITI) -- It's a new concept the Medical College of Wisconsin is taking when it comes to educating its students that will help them learn more about the “silent killer” of women’s cancers.

Third year medical students are taking lessons from patients themselves.

The “Survivors Teaching Students” program has these three ovarian cancer survivors as lecturers.  They share their stories about symptoms, how they coped and how they dealt with other doctors.

“I knew something wasn't right, went home and 3 hours later, I couldn't walk.  They found a grapefruit sized tumor that wrapped around my fallopian tube and ovary and suffocated it,” said survivor Natalie Nowak.

It's their experience that helps future physicians understand ovarian cancer, with the purpose of diagnosing and treating it early.

“It's really good to hear ahead of time as a way to sort of learn, preemptively what not to do and things that you can always do better,” said medical student Lindsey Latteman.

“We have to take a step back and realize that the patient is a person first and not a cancer,” said medical student Alex Newman.

According to the Ovarian Cancer Alliance, one out of every 72 women will develop the disease.  One out of 95 women will die from it, primarily because it's hard to detect, often times at advanced stages.

“I think the symptoms that come with ovarian cancer are so vague and could be related to many other conditions,” said Nowak.

Nowak’s cancer was caught early.  She said putting a face to the disease is one way to spread awareness.

“If educating potential doctors will help them make a connection sooner, where people can be diagnosed at earlier stages with better survival rates, that's wonderful,” she said.

Through "Survivors Teaching Students," she and others hope, in the future, it will mean one more life that can be saved.

The program is now being used in more than 60 medical schools across the country.