Misdiagnosed Ovarian Cancer Survivor Endures Years Of Pain
- Danielle Malafant, 38, endured bloating, constipation, and intense stomach pain for years until the day in July 2015 when she found herself hospitalized after suddenly collapsing during a family gathering. That is when she learned she had ovarian cancer that had been misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome.
- Malafant and her husband would go on to have twins a year later, but then, the cancer came back. This time there were tumors on her left ovary and she had a full hysterectomy.
- “Because the symptoms are often negligible and easy to dismiss, ovarian cancer can be one of those stealth illnesses that goes unnoticed until it’s reached a late stage,” Dr. Beth Karlan, a gynecologic oncologist at UCLA Medical Center, previously told Survivor Net.
An outraged ovarian cancer survivor who endured a pain she describes as “ten times worse” than childbirth for years is speaking out after being misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).Read More
That is when doctors discovered that her problem was not IBS, but rather the 13.5cm tumor on her ovary.
“It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life – I delivered my children naturally without pain medication, and this was ten times worse, but they told me it was just IBS,” Malafant told DailyMail.com.
The doctors were able to remove the tumor and Malafant recovered in time to walk down the aisle just a few months later in front of her family and two children.
Malafant and her husband would go on to have twins a year later, but then, the cancer came back. This time there were tumors on her left ovary.
Given the situation, Malafant elected to not only remove her left ovary but undergo a complete hysterectomy.
The mother-of-four did not think twice about having the procedure, but she laments the fact that she needed the operation given the years her cancer grew inside her body due to her misdiagnosis.
“I feel frustrated looking back,” she explains.
“I think there needs to be more information available to women,” states Malafant.
“If they had done more testing in the beginning, I do wonder if it could have prevented everything I’ve gone through.”
Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer
“Because the symptoms are often negligible and easy to dismiss, ovarian cancer can be one of those stealth illnesses that goes unnoticed until it’s reached a late stage,” Dr. Beth Karlan, gynecologic oncologist at UCLA Medical Center, previously told Survivor Net.
“After all, who hasn’t felt overly full on occasion? Or needed to urinate a little more often than normal? Because most, but not all, cases occur in menopausal women, the bloating, pelvic pain, and other symptoms may seem unremarkable when so many other things are going on within a woman’s reproductive organs.”
Dr. Karlan explained that these factors explain why there is an average delay of nine months between when a woman first experiences symptoms of the disease and her diagnosis.
She encourages any women who experience the following symptoms for a week or more to see their doctor and ask to be screened for ovarian cancer. And those with a history of the disease in their do the same after the age of 30 if not sooner, even if they are not yet experiencing symptoms.
- Severe pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or a feeling of fullness that makes it painful to eat
- Sudden and frequent urges to urinate
- Upset stomach
- Back pain that can feel similar to a UTI
- Pain during intimate sexual encounters
- Heavier than usual menstruation or spotting
- Distended stomach or abdominal swelling coupled with weight loss
Misdiagnosing Ovarian Cancer
Danielle Malafant is one of the many ovarian cancer warriors whose symptoms were misdiagnosed for years.
Jackie Liu has a remarkably similar story, experiencing the same symptoms and getting a similar misdiagnosis before eventually discovering she was battling the disease.
“So in hindsight, knowing what I know now, I probably had symptoms for a while,” Liu previously told SurvivorNet.
“It began with bloating, but I worked in healthcare and so you don’t necessarily eat very healthy, so I chalked it up to food issues. And then I had a lot of pain during sex, which wasn’t a thing for me until about a year before I was diagnosed. So every time I had sex, it was very, very painful. I also had bladder spasms, which were misdiagnosed as a UTI constantly.”
There was also severe abdominal pain, which just like Malafant, resulted in Liu’s hospitalization.
“I was in the middle of nowhere in Nevada, and I had lower right abdominal pain that I thought was appendicitis. So I went to the ER and that’s where they scanned me and found a huge mass,” recalled Liu.
She was released from that facility and returned to a hospital closer to her home in Virginia that was better equipped to treat her, and after a scan confirmed what doctors in Nevada had found, she underwent surgery just a few weeks later.
Liu also made the same decision that Malafant did and underwent a full hysterectomy to make sure the cancer would not return.