Tag Archives: ovarian cancer

September Is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Published / by Kim

This is a re-post from 2003. In the 11 years since I first posted this, ovarian cancer has remained the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among American women. Although it only accounts for 3% of all cancer in women, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other female reproductive system cancer. Fewer women get it than who get breast cancer, but more women die from it. In the absence of tests for early detection, the best chance of surviving this cancer is to pay attention to your body and never let a doctor tell you there’s nothing wrong when you’re sure there is.

Nearly 3 years ago, I started complaining of pelvic pain to any doctor who would listen for more than 30 seconds. I started with my gyn, who noted the pain while pressing on my abdomen during exams; after each exam, she decided it was nothing. The pain was also noted by a PA during my bi-yearly physical, also while pressing on my abdomen. I said ouch, she asked if I had my period, I said yes, and she said, “Oh, I won’t do that anymore.”

At that time, I was also complaining of an ache in my bladder. I went in to both my gyn and my PCP’s office several times, thinking I had a UTI. They would do a test and everything would be normal, and they would send me away, saying I was fine and ignoring the pain I kept talking about.

During the 2 years that my low-malignant ovarian cancer went completely ignored and undiagnosed, I developed other symptoms I would never have associated with ovarian cancer: indigestion, nausea during PMS (which often I mistook for pregnancy), fatigue. All these symptoms went unreported, though, because I was convinced it was all in my head.

Finally, on November 13 of last year, during a regular physical, a doctor I hadn’t seen before – my PCP ironically, but I always ended up seeing someone else – found a mass in my abdomen. He sent me to a GI doctor, who in turn referred me to a new gyn, and I eventually ended up in the office of a gyn oncologist.

I was fortunate. Even though my condition was staged, after surgery, at stage 3a, the cells were low-malignant. That means it wasn’t invasive. If I had had invasive ovarian cancer at that stage, I probably wouldn’t be here right now to be writing about this.

Many, many women are not as lucky as I was.

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. This disease so often goes undiagnosed until it’s too late, so it’s important to arm yourself with facts and be prepared to fight for yourself or a woman you love.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer accounts for 4 percent of all cancers among women and ranks fifth as a cause of their deaths from cancer. The American Cancer Society statistics for ovarian cancer estimate that there will be 25,400 new cases and 14,300 deaths in 2003. The death rate for this disease has not changed much in the last 50 years.*

Unfortunately, almost 70 percent of women with the common epithelial ovarian cancer are not diagnosed until the disease is advanced in stage, i.e., has spread to the upper abdomen (stage III) or beyond (stage IV). The 5-year survival rate for these women is only 15 to 20 percent, whereas the 5-year survival rate for stage I disease patients approaches 90 percent and for stage II disease patients approaches 70 percent.

* emphasis mine

Know the symptoms:

  • Unexplained change in bowel and/or bladder habits such as constipation, urinary frequency, and/or incontinence
  • Gastrointestinal upset such as gas, indigestion, and/or nausea
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Pelvic and/or abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Pelvic and/or abdominal bloating or swelling
  • A constant feeling of fullness
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal or postmenopausal bleeding
  • Pain duringintercourseKnowledge is the most important tool you can have. If you are a woman, you are at risk. Know the symptoms, find a good doctor who listens to you, pay attention to your body, and fight for your health.
    Ovarian Cancer . . .It Whispers . . .So Listen!

Ovarian Cancer Awareness

Published / by Kim

Ovarian cancer is the 9th most common cancer in women, but it’s the 5th leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the United States. It accounts for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. It has a frighteningly high mortality rate because its symptoms are non-specific and it often isn’t caught until it’s very advanced. This year, over 20,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 15,000 American women will die from ovarian cancer. It’s worth noting that those mortality rates haven’t gone down since I last posted this 2 years ago.

The best way to protect yourself is to know the facts and know your body. The symptoms are vague, but there ARE symptoms:

– Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating
– Urinary urgency
– Pelvic discomfort or pain
– Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
– Unexplained changes in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation
– Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
– Loss of appetite
– Unexplained weight loss or gain
– Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
– Pain during intercourse (dyspareunia)
– A persistent lack of energy
– Low back pain

Never second guess youself when you don’t feel right. The life you save could be your own.

For more information about ovarian cancer, visit the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

All The Details

Published / by Kim / 4 Comments on All The Details

Hello, World! Yesterday, I checked out from you, but I’m back today. The Wallow Day is over and now I’m ready to get on with my life again. The Wallow Day included a complete break from the world, a box of Magnolia cupcakes, and games all day. Days like that allow me to hang on to my normally not-exactly-sunny-but-at-least-I’m-not-killing-myself-or-others disposition on other days.

Now that my outlook is feeling refreshed, I thought I’d share some of the details of the tumor and the upcoming surgery. It’s not particularly gory, so probably it’s fine even for the squeamish. Though consider yourself warned that I’m going to talk about “organs” and not the kind that might make you giggle.

I’ve been fortunate in that if you have to have cancer, I have the kind of cancer you should choose. The tumors of the past, while malignant, have always been non-invasive. As far as cancer goes, non-invasive is definitely what you want to hear. My oncologist did extensive staging during my first surgery in 2003 and discovered smaller tumors in various other non-girly part places, such as on my liver. Because of this, the cancer was staged as IIIA. Anyone who knows anything at all about ovarian cancer knows that stage IIIA is pretty much a death sentence if we’re talking about invasive cancer. For non-invasive, it means a lot of surgery, but not even chemo or radiation. On the one hand it sucks because the only treatment is keep cutting till there’s nothing else to cut out, but on the other hand it totally Does Not Suck because of the whole “I’m not going to die” part.

The type of tumors I’ve had are, according to my oncologist, unlikely to change into the type of tumors that are invasive. However, the most recent CT scan does show a spot behind my bellybutton that has the characteristics of an invasive tumor. The possibility of it having changed to invasive cancer is supported somewhat by some strange biopsy results after my second surgery, which showed that tumor had micropapillary patterns. Micropapillary serous tumors have a slightly higher risk of changing into invasive cancer. The risk is still very low, but it’s definitely elevatyed. However, given my history of recurrence, with it always being non-invasive, Dr. Firm Handshake feels pretty confident that it’s non-invasive this time just like the previous three times.

There will, of course, be frozen section biopsies in the OR as well as a more detailed biopsy following surgery. Dr. Firm Handshake is also going to conduct a thorough search of the house and grounds to try to find anywhere additional cancer cells may be hiding. Because of said thorough search and mostly because of the size of the tumor – 28cm is 11 inches for those of us who don’t use that mainstream metric system – the surgery could go on for a while. My internal organs are being squashed and shoved aside right now and there’s a very high chance that the tumor is adhering to several of them. Each of them has to be separately handled and detached from the tumor.

The tumor itself needs, if at all possible, to be removed in one piece. We can all use our imaginations to think about how Not Good it would be to have a tumor rupture and spill its contents all over the inside my pelvic cavity. The care needed to ensure its removal without rupture is something else that could take some time. Apparently this is also going to need a bigger incision than the last three. This I find shocking, because the previous three incisions already seemed huge to me. Bigger than 7 inches? Seriously?

This brings us to the part that makes me uncomfortable. Dr. Firm Handshake believes the post-surgical pain for a procedure so involved will be considerable. So much so that he plans to completely bypass messing around with a morphine pump for post-surgical pain management and instead I’m going to have an epidural put in before the surgery. That will remain in place for… I don’t know how long, but long enough that after the surgery they can just use the epidural to numb me for a while.

I must confess to you, Gentle Reader, that scares the crap out of me.

Scott and Dr. Firm Handshake were both kind of stunned when I said the epidural scares me more than the surgery, but it does. I know women have them every day but they’ve always terrified me. I’m trying not to even think about the fact that he thinks the pain will be so bad that I’ll need one. That makes me worry about what will happen when the epidural is removed. I suppose I’ll worry about that when the time comes, and that’s why they make Percocet, after all.

So now we should be all up to date. March 30. Shit’s gonna get real, son.