What to Know About Uterine Sarcoma
- Claire O’Shea, 40, was diagnosed with stage 4 sarcoma uterine cancer after doctors first dismissed her symptoms as an intestinal disorder.
- Uterine sarcoma is a rare cancer that forms in the uterus. Sarcomas only make up about “2% to 5% of all uterine cancers.”
- Irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects your digestive system. It causes people impacted to feel abdominal pain, stomach cramps, and excessive gas.
- O’Shea experienced discomfort and constipation, symptoms of uterine sarcoma that are also associated with IBS.
- Surgery is the most common treatment method, according to the Cleveland Clinic. A hysterectomy is usually performed, which removes all or part of the uterus.
When Claire O’Shea, 40, was told her persistent bloating, discomfort and constipation were from a common intestinal disorder, she knew her symptoms had to be “red flags” of something else. Only after visiting her doctors several more times did she receive a correct diagnosis: aggressive cancer.
“I think there was an opportunity for the [General Practitioner] to have spotted it sooner,” O’Shea told U.K.-based ITV News.Read More
She underwent an ultrasound in February 2022 when doctors suspected a fibroid, which is a tumor in the uterus. Several months later in September of last year, after undergoing surgery to remove the lump, a biopsy revealed O’Shea had stage 4 sarcoma, a rare cancerous tumor in the uterus.
“It’s particularly devastating because it’s such an aggressive cancer,” O’Shea said.
To treat the cancer, O’Shea underwent hysterectomy surgery, which removes all or part of the uterus.
After surgery, she began chemotherapy to further treat the remaining cancer cells.
“If it gets caught early then the prognosis is okay-ish, if it’s caught late then the prognosis is awful…I knew already that I’d been battling already for around two years,” O’Shea said after her diagnosis.
What Is Uterine Sarcoma?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, uterine sarcoma is a rare cancer that forms in the uterus. Sarcomas make up only about “2% to 5% of all uterine cancers,” according to the American Cancer Society.
Most uterine cancers are endometrial cancer, which start in the lining of the uterus or the endometrium. “About 50,000 American women are diagnosed with the disease every year,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Uterine sarcoma “grows faster and spreads more quickly” than endometrial cancers, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Vs. Cancer
Irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects your digestive system. Symptoms of IBS, according to the Cleveland Clinic, include:
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Bowel movements that are harder or looser than normal
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Excessive gas
- Mucus in your still
- Uterine sarcoma symptoms may include:
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- A lump or mass in your vaginal or pelvic area
- The feeling of fullness in your abdomen
- The constant need to urinate
- Pelvic pain
WATCH: Understanding the Risks and Symptoms of Uterine Cancer.
O’Shea said she felt a lump in her abdomen, which is a symptom of uterine sarcoma.
But she also experienced constipation and bloating, two symptoms associated with IBS. It’s important to know that constipation is also a symptoms of uterine sarcoma, according to the Cleveland Clinic. And while “bloating” is not listed as a symptom of the cancer, a “feeling of fullness in your abdomen” is.
Other symptoms of uterine sarcoma include:
- Unusual bleeding from your vagina that’s unrelated to menstrual periods or that happens after menopause.
- Vaginal bleeding with a smelly discharge.
- Pelvic pain.
- Having to pee often
If you experience any of these symptoms frequently, you should consider contacting your doctor to make sure you do not face any potential health risks.
How Is Uterine Sarcoma Treated?
O’Shea’s stage 4 uterine sarcoma cancer was detected in its advanced stage, meaning it has metastasized or spread beyond its point of origin within the body.
Incredible Uterine Cancer Survivors
Surgery is the most common treatment method, according to the Cleveland Clinic. A hysterectomy is usually performed, which removes all or part of the uterus. A “total hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy removes the uterus and one or both ovaries and one or both fallopian tubes,” Cleveland Clinic explains.
Other types of uterine sarcoma surgical options include a radical hysterectomy, which removes the uterus, cervix, both fallopian tubes, surrounding tissue, and a portion of the vagina is another surgical method.
Lymphadenectomy removes the lymph nodes.
Radiation therapy targets cancer cells using high-energy X-rays.
Chemotherapy is another treatment method that uses medications to kill or slow the growth of cancerous cells.
Hormone therapy can be testosterone and/or estrogen to help treat the cancer.
O’Shea said she’s undergoing chemotherapy after having surgery to treat her cancer. She hopes by sharing her own cancer journey, doctors will understand it’s important to take symptoms from women and men seriously.
“I think if I’d been diagnosed at my first appointment with the G.P. I would’ve saved myself months and I might have just had a fibroid removed,” O’Shea said.
She went on to call the problem of dismissing symptoms as “systemic.”
“It’s a problem with attitudes, particularly in primary care towards women and being told either you accept pain, or I felt a bit neurotic, like it was she’s got nothing more to worry about than an upset stomach’, and it was obviously much worse than that,” O’Shea added.
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