By Roseanne Schoen
I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in January 2005- I was 27 at the time. I had gone in for a follow-up 2 weeks after a second surgery to remove cysts on my ovary. I remember how my doctor sat me down and told me, “I’m sorry, but you have cancer.” I had stage 1c ovarian cancer, meaning that the cancer is in one or both ovaries and is either on the outside of an ovary, grown through the capsule of an ovary, or is in fluid taken from the pelvis. I was in shock. I didn’t have a family history of ovarian cancer. I was also only 27 and I never thought that, at my age, I would develop this type of cancer. Two weeks later, I had my left ovary and fallopian tube taken out and then had chemotherapy for 4 months- my oncologist wanted to treat me as if I had stage 2 cancer-as if the cancer had spread into the pelvic tissue.
Luckily for me, the doctors caught my cancer early. Early cancers of the ovaries often cause no symptoms. I had initially gone to the doctor with symptoms of abdominal bloating and pain and irregular periods. Other symptoms may include difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and/or urinary symptoms (having to go urgently or often). When ovarian cancer causes symptoms, they tend to be symptoms that are more commonly caused by other things. Most of these symptoms can also be caused by other less serious conditions. These symptoms can be more severe when they are caused by ovarian cancer, but that isn’t always true. What is most important is that they are a change from how a woman usually feels.
By the time ovarian cancer is considered as a possible cause of these symptoms, it usually has already spread beyond the ovaries. Also, some types of ovarian cancer can rapidly spread to the surface of nearby organs. Still, prompt attention to symptoms may improve the odds of early diagnosis and successful treatment. If you have symptoms similar to those of ovarian cancer almost daily for more than a few weeks, and they can’t be explained by other more common conditions, report them to your health care professional — preferably a gynecologist — right away.
I am now at almost nine years of being cancer-free and I feel pretty good. I am a cancer survivor and I am proud to be able to tell my story!