Every 11 hours an Australian woman will die from ovarian cancer and a Pap test does not detect the disease.
Mother Debbie Lee from Melbourne knows just how devastating it can be. Here is her story …
“In May 2008 I was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer. In that moment of coming to terms with the possibility of many things, one thing was for certain, life would never be the same again. Like many other women who have experienced ovarian cancer, I wasn’t aware of the symptoms or the gravity of this disease. I was always a fit woman and led a healthy lifestyle, so when I started to feel lethargic and complained of chronic back aches, I thought I was like any other woman over 40 who was busy with a family, running a house and working whilst trying to keep fit and healthy. I put my symptoms down to just doing so much or trying to fit everything and everyone into my day. My symptoms lasted 3 weeks and I saw my GP twice before I was diagnosed, enough time for my tumour to grow aggressively.
When I eventually saw my GP I asked whether the symptoms were those of IBS, menopause or perhaps a cyst. It didn’t occur to me to ask her about ovarian cancer because I didn’t really know too much about the disease or the symptoms. My GP prescribed antibiotics for a stomach virus and suggested I see her again if the symptoms persisted or the medication didn’t work. Within 3 days I stopped taking the medication because it made me feel very sick and I saw my GP again the following week on a Wednesday. Within this period of time, my stomach swelled twice its size and the constipation became more persistent.
At my next appointment I insisted I see a specialist and was sent immediately to have an ultrasound where I was told I had a tumour larger than 10cm and was presenting with symptoms of ovarian cancer.
After seeing Prof. Michael Quinn, a gynaecological oncologist, I had surgery for a radical hysterectomy, removal of the tumour and omentum, and removal of a large amount of fluid.
I began my cycle of six sessions of chemo six weeks after my surgery and completed my final course in October 2008. My CA125 levels have dropped dramatically and continue to remain stable. My latest scans are all clear.
I’m very fortunate to have a wonderful medical team looking after me and my future medical needs. I also have the love and support of my wonderful husband and daughter and family and friends.
I now see life as a blessing not as a given.”
Where to get help
There is no early detection test and while ovarian cancer is often considered a silent killer, scientific evidence shows that many women DO experience symptoms that if acted on, could result in an earlier diagnosis and a better chance of beating the disease.
The most common four symptoms which women with ovarian cancer experience frequently and persistently
are: pelvic and abdominal pain, increased abdominal size/persistent bloating, increased urinary frequency, and
difficulty eating and/or feeling full quickly.
To learn the risks, signs and symptoms or to make a donation please visit www.ovariancancer.net.au. Ovarian Cancer Australia also has named Wednesday 24th February Teal Ribbon Day, with ribbons available for purchase for $2.00 from Napoleon Perdis concept stores and Ovarian Cancer Australia. Funds raised through Teal Ribbon Day will continue the work of Ovarian Cancer Australia, operational since 2001.