Since my diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer following surgery on April 8th I have had a growing sense of the need to share a warning for women in my life to be checked regularly for ovarian cancer. The problem with that is that the symptoms could be one of a million different things making them easy to “write off” by a doctor and their patient. I understand doctors not wanting to be too aggressive with diagnosing patients. But there has to be a line somewhere in the sand that a doctor has to not allow a patients symptoms get too far away without testing them for something like Ovarian Cancer. Those symptoms will be the topic of today’s blog post. If you suffer from them please plead with your doctor to check you out more closely.
Ovarian Cancer is called the “Whisper Killer” because the symptoms are so mild and easily excused for other illnesses that it isn’t usually discovered until it is too late for successful treatment. Each year there are approximately 22,000 women diagnosed with Ovarian cancer and 15,000 women will die from it. Those are not odds that I as a patient am ok with. I am not ok with those odds for any of the women in my circle of friends or family. The longer I sit back in my chemo chair and thank the Lord that my cancer was found so early the longer I stop and think about my friends and wonder if the aches and pains they feel could possibly be Ovarian Cancer too.
First I will list the symptoms and then briefly talk about them and explain how they relate to me and perhaps you.
- Abdominal, pelvic, or lower back pain
- Nausea, lack of appetite, or feeling full quickly
- Bloating or intestinal gas
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or increased frequency)
- Unexplained changes in bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Ongoing decreased energy level
As you may remember I also have Fibromyalgia. All of those symptoms above can EASILY be explained as being Fibro related. I have had Fibro for 19+ years. And I have had all of those symptoms! I have taken a different medication for each one trying to treat each of them. Some of them helped for a period of time and some of them didn’t. How many of those symptoms would you say you are currently dealing with right now? Has your doctor ever once said to you “maybe we should do an ultrasound to check things out”? He’s probably just grabbed his prescription pad and written a script for 30 pills of so and so and rushed out of the room to his next patient. You wouldn’t have known the difference because who even thinks about Ovarian Cancer. Since you have now read this….YOU HAVE!!!! The next time you go to the doctor you will have been informed and can add O.C. to your list of things to discuss with him/her. Somebody has to start talking about it. I am 46 years old and it never came up in ANY of my doctor’s appointments so that is why I am equipping you with the knowledge. Now one of the two of you in that examining room WILL have the information and it CAN be discussed.
There is one other symptom that I wanted to spend just a few minutes on that was a big sign for me that I ignored. It fits into all of the categories above. I always had very painful menstrual cycles. The symptoms of my period included all of the symptoms above. From the very beginning my period would put me in bed for a number of days each month. The cramps were very painful. I was always trying to find some kind of medicine that would relieve them but nothing would relieve them. Ron had been begging me for over a year to talk to my primary doctor. But I assured him that I had been at this period thing for 33 years and periods hurt. That’s what they do. I accept it. It makes me miserable but it’ll be over in a few days and I’ll be fine. So ignored him. As a result of my stubbornness I was 3 years behind on my regular physical. What I discovered as a result of my doctor performing a total hysterectomy was that I had endometriosis and that the cancer had started growing in it. No wonder I was so miserable. I wish I had listened. I wish I had stayed current with my physicals. I wish I knew a lot more about my body than I did. Who knows how long I had endured endometriosis? I could have had it years just sitting there making me miserable. If I had stopped putting it off and admitted my weakness I may have saved my body from this cancer fight.
Ovarian Cancer is the whisper killer. The tests necessary to discover it are very specific tests that are done examining the ovaries. Unless you are looking for it you will not find it. So pay attention to your body, write down everything and demand your doctor checks you over. Don’t let it whisper in your life. You may not have a chance to whisper back.