Tag Archives: ultrasound

World Ovarian Cancer Day

May 8, 2013World Ovarian Cancer Day: today is the first official World Ovarian Cancer Day.

Did you know that ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of gynecologic cancers? Almost a quarter million women are diagnosed each year and it is responsible for 140,000 deaths.

It is important to know the symptoms, which are often misdiagnosed. Do you know what they are? From the World Ovarian Cancer Day website:

  • Increased abdominal size / persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
  • Difficulty eating/feeling full quickly
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Needing to pass urine more urgently or more frequently

Early diagnosis greatly increases a woman’s chance of survival, however, women are usually diagnosed at a late stage as often the symptoms are attributed to menopause or digestive issues. This is all so familiar to me.

My mother’s story

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while already know that my mother is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed less than a year ago, in June ’12.

Just like described above, she thought her discomfort and swollen belly were related to digestive issues. She was experiencing abdominal pain on her left side and frequently had to use the bathroom. A colonoscopy was scheduled to investigate what in her GI tract was causing this problem. The doctor was unable to complete the procedure – in the five months since her last abdominal/vaginal ultrasound, a tumor developed in her left ovary and grew so large (the size of a balled-up fist) that it restricted the large intestine.

The initial surgery removed a few outlying lumps, but majority of the mass was left intact. As of today, she completed six chemo treatments in Fall ’12 and five of six treatments in Spring ’13. Her doctors are optimistic and believe that her prognosis is good.

I’m scared. Our small family is devastated. My mother is weak and in pain. My father is struggling to support her physically, mentally, and emotionally. My sister (and her son) moved in with my parents to help however she can. I am helplessly watching and trying to support them all from thousands of miles away. I have hope that she will beat those awful odds that are against her.

Ladies, please talk to your doctor. Start those ultrasounds if you aren’t already doing them, especially if breast and/or ovarian cancer are prevalent in your family.

But why?

I never really worried or thought much about cancer until my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 28 (10+ years ago). She died a year later. So … annual mammograms began in my mid 20s and mid-year ultrasounds were added a few years later. The topic of a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy came up on a couple of occasions, but I didn’t think I had enough reason to seriously consider it. So far, so good.

In March 2012 an ultrasound spotted some issues. Three separate masses were present – two on the left breast, one on the right. They developed in the six months since the last mammogram. Based on quantity and consistency, the oncologist thought they were cysts. Rather than doing a biopsy to draw fluid for testing, he recommended that I first undergo an MRI screening. At this time I started doing some casual research on prophylactic bilateral mastectomies.  Waiting for test results was hell, but when they eventually arrived, they were good – no cancer. Whew! High five!

Fast forward to June 2012. I felt something unusual during one of my monthly self-exams. The lump I felt was in one of the three spots where the ultrasound found issues. Another ultrasound confirmed that two of the three spots had increased in size and were now palpable. Fine-needle aspiration biopsies were done and results sent for testing. I got names of a few plastic surgeons in my area and left with a plan to start the conversations, no matter the results. The biopsy results were negative for cancer, but there were abnormal cells detected. I already knew I have “extremely” dense breast tissue/fibrocystic disease (which can make diagnosis of cancerous tumors more difficult). I was told to continue my self-exams and keep regular screening appointments as I had in the past.