Fighting Women’s Cancer One Step at a Time

By George “Larry” Maxwell, MD

It began in 2009 with a 72-hour run around Washington, DC,’s National Mall in support of the Foundation for Women’s Cancer’s National Race to End Women’s Cancer. It continued in 2011 with a 72-hour relay around the White House, and now it is a global 24-hour walk taking place in more than 80 countries worldwide.

On September 29 and 30, thousands of people will run and walk all across the globe, united in support of raising awareness of gynecologic cancers. While the distance won’t necessarily be far, the impact of the race will be far-reaching. The Globe-athon Walk to End Women’s Cancers is the first international, grassroots call to action for gynecologic cancer

Gynecologic cancers account for 19 percent of the 5.1 million estimated new cancer cases, 2.9 million cancer deaths, and 13 million five-year prevalent cancer cases among women in the world. They are especially deadly in underserved and developing countries. Prior to the Globe-athon, there were few unified efforts underway to fight all types of women’s cancers. Many separate advocacy groups do wonderful work; the Globe-athon is an effort to unify them and bring the community together with a common voice. The event’s goal is not to fundraise, but to raise awareness and educate the public on women’s cancer. This cause resonates with me. I lost my grandmother and my great aunt to ovarian cancer.

The success of the first National Race to End Women’s Cancer led to a game-changing query: “What if people across the globe organized a walk on the very same day?” Last spring, we came together in order to build a grassroots movement, with each entity having the ability to organize its own event, incorporating its own traditions.

Inova Health System, in partnership with the Foundation for Women’s Cancer, hosts free courses for the public each fall before the National Race (this year’s event will take place on November 3). We bring subject matter experts from across the country to provide free education and resources for patients, providers, and the public. Curiosity is what leads to change. I encourage medical students, who are just starting a lifelong education, to do something outside of the classroom that will be effective for their community. The Globe-athon is only one example of the many ways students can get involved.

In the era of personalized medicine, we are seeing changes in practice patterns that we hope will result in more cost-effective delivery of care. Education is crucial in ending women’s cancers. Providers should think beyond reactionary care delivery and think more in terms of preventative strategies. Medical education can play a large role not just in educating the public, but in teaching care methods such as prevention of obesity, which contributes to uterine and endometrial cancer.

The Globe-athon is our attempt to create what we hope will be a global network of communication through social media and digital channels. We will walk all over the world in order to raise awareness of gynecologic cancers, across an international landscape as we unify our efforts in a common call, where we break down the silos and work together in the name of education, empowerment, and prevention.

The White House has declared September Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, with a call to action to raise awareness of ovarian and women’s cancers in order to help Americans live longer, healthier lives. For more information on this initiative, please visit the White House website.

For more information on the Race to End Women’s Cancer, please visit the race website. To learn more about innovative approaches to educating the public on women’s cancers (and why physicians make the best rock stars), please click here.

For more information about the Globeathon to End Women’s Cancer, please visit the website at

Larry Maxwell_Globe-athon—George “Larry” Maxwell, MD is the Chairman, Department of OB/GYN at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Va. and is a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. He is a member of the Foundation for Women’s Cancer Board of Directors and can be reached at

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