Skip to nav Skip to content
Photo by: Facebook: SherryStrong

Sherry Pollex, a beloved figure within the NASCAR community, died Sunday following a nine-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 44. Pollex was the longtime girlfriend of 2017 NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. and daughter of PPC Racing team owner Greg Pollex.

Pollex supported many causes related to childhood and ovarian cancers through the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation. She also founded the Sherry Strong Integrative Medicine Oncology Clinic at Novant Health in Charlotte, N.C., and created to help women understand early detection and treatment options for ovarian cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 20,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States this year. Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

“On some days, that can be a really hard pill to swallow,” Pollex told The Athletic in a 2022 interview. “But on other days, it’s like, ‘You know, I’ve been given this really important role in this life, and if I’m going to leave a legacy behind and help other people, then I need to do it 100 percent.’”

According to Dr. Robert Wenham, chair of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Department of Gynecologic Oncology, there is no effective test to screen for ovarian cancer.

Dr. Robert Wenham, Gynecologic Oncology Program

Dr. Robert Wenham, Gynecologic Oncology Program

“I am very sorry to learn of the passing of Ms. Pollex,” Wenham said. “The development of a test with appropriate predictive values for ovarian cancers is challenged by the low prevalence of the disease in the population. Equally challenging is the anatomic location, as most of these come from the fallopian tubes that are internal to the patient and are open to the abdomen and pelvis.”

The most effective predictor for ovarian cancer is knowing your family history. If your genes put you at risk for the disease, physicians can help prevent it with surgery or use of certain medications; but not screening. Even in high-risk patients, there is no test that can catch ovarian cancers early enough to make a real difference in survival rates.

The unique biology of ovarian cancers also makes them difficult to detect. 

“Early stage ones tend to be the slow growing, indolent types,” Wenham said. “The more common, fast-growing ones become an advanced stage quickly. Even if we had a good screening test reliable enough to determine cancer and noncancer, it would need to be able to be performed at a frequency of time intervals when the prognosis can be changed.”

According to the ACS, if ovarian cancer is caught at a very early stage, up to 94% of patients live longer than five years following their diagnosis, but only 20% of diagnoses present at this stage. Women are more likely to have symptoms if the disease has spread, but occasionally early stage ovarian cancer can cause them, as well.

Common symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urgent or frequent urination

“Unfortunately, by the time symptoms develop, the cancer is typically at a point where earlier detection will not change the long-term outcome,” Wenham said. “I and my colleagues dream of the day when we might develop effective tests for various groups. The encouraging news is we have been highly effective in helping decrease the risk of this cancer with a deeper understanding of genetics, and women with ovarian cancer are living years longer with new treatments.”