This week is going to be education week here on the blog! The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012, about 22,280 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and 15,500 women will die of ovarian cancer in the United States. So feel free to read and pass this info along to all the women in your life. Ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all gynelogical cancers.
Ovarian Cancer is known as the the disease that "whispers" because its symptoms are often subtle and go unrecognized for far too long. In an effort to encourage advocacy, I'm going to list the common symptoms and then talk about my own experience.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer:
Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating
Pelvic discomfort or pain
Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full
Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
A persistent lack of energy
Low back pain
So, did I have any of those symptoms? Its so hard to say, hindsight being 20/20 and all that good stuff.
First, lets get past the ones I don't think I ever experienced:
- Abdominal pressure - not that I can remember
- Persistent indigestion - nope
- Bowel issues - not really
- Bladder issues - no
- Clothes fitting tighter - nope
- Low back pain - nope
But there were a few that I think I might have:
- Feeling full quickly - I would sometimes feel full after eating a relatively small amount of food. Not just a little full, but that "I just ate way too much" feeling. But it wasn't consistent. I could still put away a bowl of pasta with the best of them when I felt like it. :)
- Persistent lack of energy - another one I wonder about. I was EXHAUSTED in the weeks right before my emergency surgery. But I was also working two jobs - usually more than 70 hours a week. This wasn't anything unusual, I'd been working two jobs for years, but two weeks prior to that first surgery, I actually quit my second job. Despite the free time, I was collapsing on my couch at about 8pm every night, unable to find any motivation to move again until I dragged myself to bed a couple hours later. Was it just adjusting to having free time again? Or the cancer? I wonder about this...
- Pelvic pain - of course I was feeling pain the night I went into the ER. But I'd had a very similar (though not as long lasting) pain the month before. At the time, I thought it was just bad cramps mixed with some constipation. (TMI, sorry!) But now I'm convinced it was the tumor on my ovary flaring up. Even more than that though, I've had that same pain (again, only lasting 4-6 hours each time) two other times during my life. Not any time recently, both were back in college, but it makes me wonder if it is all connected. Despite the absolute agony, I never went to the doctor any of those prior times. I'll be honest, this is one of my regrets. I wish that I had gone to the doctor about that pain in the past.
All in all, I had very few symptoms. Of course, my cancer was also caught very early so its hard to say if I would have developed more as it grew. But I definitely think we need to be paying better attention to our bodies. I was very cavalier about my health. I figured I was young, had few risk factors for developing any major disease, and I explained away some of the possible symptoms.
Please understand, I am not suggesting you rush off to the doctor for every little pain or tired day. But I have decided to take my health a lot more seriously these days. I no longer think its normal to be tired all the time. I no longer think persistent (or any acute) pain is "just getting older". And I'm certainly taking what I put into my body (nutritious food), products I use on my body (shampoo, lotions, etc), and what I surround my body with (chemicals, etc) a lot more seriously these days.
I encourage everyone to take charge of their health. Pay attention to what your body might be telling you. And if you truly feel that something is wrong, don't stop until your doctor can tell you what it is and what you can do to treat it.