One Woman's Misdiagnosis of IBS is Actually Ovarian Cancer
- At 24, Beth Dreher, who’s now an editor at Good Housekeeping, experienced hot flashes, pain, and cramps. She was misdiagnosed with IBS.
- Dreher actually had stage 3 ovarian cancer; treatment for it forced her into early menopause.
- Ovarian cancer has been called “the cancer that whispers,” due to its hard-to-spot symptoms.
Beth Dreher’s Cancer JourneyRead More
Multiple doctors gave her different information. She writes, “One doctor diagnosed me with IBS; another thought I had a UTI. None of them seemed all that concerned. I was, however. After a morning of particularly bothersome abdominal pain and built up frustration, I went to urgent care. A doctor there performed an ultrasound, diagnosed me with ovarian cysts and prescribed birth control.”
Three months after visiting urgent care, Dreher had an appointment with her gynecologist and described the experience to her doctor. She writes, ” I still felt bloated and had no appetite, and the birth control hadn’t done much that I could tell — and she shuffled me into an exam room for another ultrasound.”
Her doctor told her she had a large mass in her abdomen which was “enveloping my ovaries.” As a precaution, her doctor looped in an oncologist. The growth was removed from her abdomen, as were her ovaries and her appendix. Then, Dreher finally got a correct diagnosis of stage 3 ovarian cancer.
To treat her cancer, she had surgery and chemotherapy. She writes of the surgical treatment, “I had a total hysterectomy to remove my uterus, fallopian tubes and cervix.” Dreher also went into early menopause as a result. She remembers the symptoms from her early menopause, saying, “My symptoms were all over the map. I wasn’t sleeping well, mostly because of night sweats, and I had a random period, which is rare but not unheard of after a double oophorectomy.”
She continues, “I went on a few completely arbitrary and out-of-character crying jags. Maybe it was my roiling hormones or a release of the emotions — shock, grief, anger — I’d tamped down over the previous months (or a little of both), but suddenly I’d be overcome.”
Signs of Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer has been called “the cancer that whispers,” due to its hard-to-detect symptoms. Dr. Beth Karlan, a gynecologic oncologist at UCLA Medical Center, explains in an earlier interview, “What we’ve found from multiple studies, it’s this constellation of symptoms,” she said.
“If that’s really happening and you’re experiencing it every day, and they seem to be crescendo-ing, getting worse, even if that goes on for only two weeks, you should call your doctor.”
Ovarian cancer symptoms may include:
- Feeling full earlier/decrease in appetite
- Feeling bloated
- Changes in bowel habits
- Pain in the pelvis
- Urinary symptoms, such as an urgent need to go
- Extreme fatigue
- Abdominal swelling
- Pain during sex