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Gene Wilder Urges More Spending on Ovarian Cancer

May 9, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The husband of the late comedienne Gilda Radner urged Congress on Thursday to increase spending for testing and research on ovarian cancer, the disease that killed his wife.

Radner would have lived longer if doctors had had her family history to help them diagnose the cancer earlier, said her husband, actor Gene Wilder.

But she was unaware that her aunt, a cousin and possibly a grandmother also had ovarian cancer, said Wilder, who appeared before the House Appropriations subcommittee dealing with health issues.

″I want to try to save any Gildas out there,″ Wilder told a news conference.

Ovarian cancer kills some 12,400 women a year. Radner died in 1989 at age 42.

Wilder said Radner’s cancer was undiagnosed for 10 months. When it was discovered, it had advanced to the latest, inevitably lethal stage.

But Wilder said Radner might have had a longer life if she had known that ovarian cancer tends to run in families.

″Gilda was a sitting duck,″ he said.

Because Radner did not advise her doctors of her history, she was not given the blood test that detected the cancer until it was far advanced.

″If I had known then what I know now, she would be alive,″ Wilder said.

Wilder said ovarian cancer is capricious: in its first stage, 90 percent can be cured, but few people know when they have the early cancer. Symptoms usually appear later.

Women whose families have a histories of cancer should stay in touch with their doctors, he said. He advised women who have bloating and persistent backaches to ask for the necessary tests.

Wilder appeared at the behest of Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who has introduced a bill to spend more money on women’s reproductive diseases.

″We have virtually no ability to detect ovarian cancer early, and little understanding of the relationship between other reproductive system diseases and other life patterns,″ Hoyer said.

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