Ovarian Cancer Awareness
It was October, I was 9-years-old and my mom came home after finding out that a routine pap-smear came back as abnormal. Her doctor reassured her that a cream should take care of it, and no one thought anything of it, including my mom.
December came around and my mom was having a terrible stomachache that lasted for weeks. Me, my brother, and sister all just thought she had the stomach flu and she would be over it in a few days. Cancer was the furthest thing from all of our minds. I know it didn’t cross mine at all. As the pain persisted, she decided to go to the gastroenterologist, because it felt like intestinal pain. The gastroenterologist, knew something was wrong, she was filling up with fluid and in excruciating pain. Desperate to give her an answer, the gastroenterologist diagnosed her with gallstones and claimed they were viewed on an ultrasound and would need surgery to removed her gallbladder.
Always thinking about us and being there for us, she decided to wait until February break when we were off from school to have the surgery, so there was no disruption in our schedules. Unfortunately, this would cause precious time to pass by.
Prior to every surgery you need to go for a pre-op with your primary physician, my mom went in for her pre-op and her doctor asked how she was feeling overall, and my mom stated that she felt short of breath often. My mom was losing weight, but you couldn’t tell because it was being replaced with fluid buildup in her abdomen. Her physician palpated her stomach and could feel the fluid build up and decided to follow up on that positive pap-smear a couple of months back. During her vaginal exam, her physician felt a mass and ordered her to have an MRI immediately. The MRI showed a tumor the size of a grapefruit.
Her physician pulled her into her office and told her alone—because my mom didn’t want to inconvenience anyone and bring them to her appointment—that she had stage IV Ovarian Cancer with a 17% chance of survival.
My mom is now a part of that 17%, but not everyone is that lucky. As National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian cancer week wraps up I wanted to shed light on this silent killer. Only 15% of ovarian cancer is caught in stage I, because ovarian cancer has many vague symptoms that are very similar to gastrointestinal ailments, like my mom thought she had. There’s no real screening tool for ovarian cancer except for a transvaginal ultrasound, which isn’t routine and has to be requested. So, if you feel any of the symptoms listed below it’s really important that you go to your gynecologist and insist on a transvaginal ultrasound.
SYMPTOMS OF OVARIAN CANCER
Nausea or vomiting
Pain shortly before or after the start of your period
Pressure, swelling or pain in the abdomen
A dull ache in the lower back and thighs
Difficulty emptying your bladder
Pain during sex
FACTORS THAT INCREASE YOUR RISK FOR OVARIAN CANCER
Genetics: Being BRCA 1 and/or 2 positive or Lynch Syndrome
Family history or personal history of cancer: There was no history of ovarian cancer in my mom’s family, but her father had pancreatic cancer, which is who she inherited the BRCA 2 gene from. So make sure you communicate any cancer in your family, it may make your doctor take your symptoms more seriously.
Reproductive History and Infertility: having your first period before age 12, never having children, having children over the age of 30, never taken oral contraceptives, experienced menopause after age 50, and infertility
PCOS and Endometriosis
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Preventing Ovarian Cancer
Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables
Pregnancy and Breast Feeding
Removal of the Ovaries and Fallopian Tubes
Avoid Talc (get talc free makeup!)
I hope this helps at least one person to be more cognizant of their body and always speak up when something doesn’t feel right, you know your body the best.
All the love,