Understanding Ovarian Cancer
- Amanda Davies is a 48-year-old ovarian cancer survivor. Her symptoms were dismissed as related to menopause for over a year until she was finally diagnosed.
- Ovarian cancer is called the cancer that whispers because symptoms can be vague and sometimes similar to regular menstrual cycle fluctuations.
- Our advice to readers is simple: Talk to your doctor if you feel like something is off.
- If you’re worried about your risk of developing ovarian cancer, speak with your doctor. One of our experts urges “all women to discuss their family history and individual risk factors with their doctors and ask whether there are risk-reducing options available to them.”
Unfortunately, ovarian cancer symptoms can be dismissed by doctors and patients alike. That’s why it’s imperative to be your own best advocate.Read More
Davies kept going back to doctors saying she was “struggling with [her] time of the month,” but she kept being told she was likely suffering from perimenopause symptoms. Perimenopause is the time around menopause when your ovaries gradually stop functioning. Other dismissals doctors gave her pointed to her age, her job and stress.
Ovarian Cancer: If You Feel Something, Say Something
Doctors finally started looking into her symptoms after 18 months of suffering. Since she already had a heart condition, her doctor recommended she see a cardiologist. Following an ultrasound, she was prescribed “water tablets” and sent home.
“Water tablets” can refer to diuretics, which help to remove excess water and salt from the body.
“He said I want you to take these water tablets and come back in a month,” she explained. “I started taking the water tablets and I was severely sick. I could not stop being sick.
“I phoned our GP straight away they said I will keep the practice open to see you. He felt my stomach, and he said I think I can feel something, I think you have a blocked bowel.”
Expert Ovarian Cancer Resources
A resulting trip to the hospital led to scans that revealed the truth: stage 3 ovarian cancer.
“I was told I had six to 12 months without treatment,” she said. “No one with my heart condition had had chemotherapy before, but they were willing to treat me if I wanted to try.”
Following chemotherapy and a hysterectomy, Davies is doing much better today. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, however. Her heart condition caused serious complications both before and after treatment. But she’s managed to move forward with positivity.
“I feel really privileged to get up in the morning,” she said.
Learning About Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer occurs when the ovaries – which produce the sex hormone, estrogen, as well as eggs – become cancerous. Women have two ovaries, one on either side of the uterus, or womb.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 19,710 women in the United States will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2023.
Feeling Overwhelmed by Your Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis? Here Are Some Ways to Regain Your Equilibrium
Your risk of developing the disease may be increased if you:
- Have gone through menopause.
- Have a gene mutation like BRCA1 or BRCA2
- Are overweight or obese
- Had your first pregnancy after age 35 or never carried a pregnancy to full-term
- Have a family history of cancer
- Used hormone replacement therapy
New Recommendation: Many More Women Should Have Their Fallopian Tubes Removed To Prevent Ovarian Cancer – Top Experts Strongly Agree
If you’re worried about your risk of developing the disease, talk with your doctor. In helping you assess your risk level, they may be able to recommend risk-reducing measures.
“We must remember that prevention is key and advocate for all women to discuss their family history and individual risk factors with their doctors and ask whether there are risk-reducing options available to them,” Dr. Stephanie Wethington, the director of the gynecologic oncology survivorship program at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said.
Know the Signs of the Disease
Ovarian cancer symptoms can be vague and sometimes similar to regular menstrual cycle fluctuations. For this reason, the disease is often called the cancer that whispers.
Ovarian Cancer: The Cancer that Whispers
“Ovarian cancer does not have any specific symptoms,” Dr. Beth Karlan, a renown gynecologic oncologist at UCLA Medical Center, told SurvivorNet.
“It’s often referred to as the cancer that whispers in that it has symptoms that are really very vague… and nothing that may bring your attention directly to the ovaries.”
Even though it might be hard to detect them, you should still be vigilant of any potential symptoms.
“The symptoms include things like feeling full earlier than you usually would when your appetite is strong… Feeling bloated,” she said.
“Some changes in your bowel habits. Some pain in the pelvis. These are symptoms women may have every month. These are not very specific. But what we’ve found from multiple studies, it’s this constellation of symptoms.”
RELATED: Annual Ovarian Cancer Screenings Do Not Save Lives, Study Suggests; Women Should Listen for Signs of the ‘Cancer that Whispers’
Our advice to readers is simple: Talk to your doctor if you feel like something is off. Given that ovarian cancer can have no symptoms or a myriad of symptoms that you might easily brush off as nothing, it’s important to always seek medical attention when your instincts are telling you something is wrong.
“You Are Your Own Best Advocate”
After an ovarian cancer battle of her own, Stephanie Virgin shares the same advice. She suffered with ovarian cancer symptoms for quite some time before addressing them with a doctor.
“I could explain away every single one of my symptoms,” she said. “I didn’t even realize they were symptoms.
“If you don’t feel right, call your doctor. If your doctor doesn’t listen, get a second opinion. You need to know that you are your own best advocate.”
Being your own advocate doesn’t mean you should assume the worst every time we have a change in appetite or feel bloated, but it does mean you should listen to the signs your body is giving you. And if you talk to a doctor who doesn’t take your concerns seriously or address them properly, don’t hesitate to get another opinion.
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