Ovarian Cancer – My Story by Alison Kavanagh15th March 2022
Alison Kavanagh has kindly shared her ovarian cancer journey to raise awareness and to encourage other women to check their symptoms.
When Alison developed abdominal pain, bloating and abnormal bleeding aged 52; she put her symptoms down to her age. Alison said, “When the bleeding persisted and worsened, a good friend persuaded me to see my GP; although I was still convinced I was making a fuss about nothing. My GP put me at ease and listened to my concerns; she immediately ran some blood tests and requested an urgent ‘red flag’ gynae appointment at my local hospital. It was explained that there could have been a number of possible causes of my bleeding, including cancer. “
Alison explained, “Whilst my blood tests came back within the normal range, an ultrasound scan revealed a mass on my right ovary. Although I hoped it was benign, it was decided surgery was the best option and I underwent a total hysterectomy and a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (surgery to remove both ovaries and fallopian tubes) in June 2021. Several weeks later I was seen by the Gynae Clinical Nurse Specialists at the Ulster Hospital where I was advised that I had a rare form of ovarian cancer. Whilst I understood cancer was a possibility, the news still came as a complete shock. No-one ever wants to receive this news, however by prompt intervention my cancer was caught at an early stage and I haven’t needed any further treatment. I will continue to be monitored by the Gynae Clinical Nurse Specialist Team and I am so thankful for the treatment that I have received, for those who listened, took action and cared, you saved my life!”
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognise, particularly in the early stages of the disease. Early symptoms can include those similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, for example; persistent bloating, difficulty eating, feeling full quickly and persistent abdominal and pelvic pain. Later symptoms would include loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, pain on intercourse, increased abdominal size, urinary and bowel habit changes, shortness of breath, lower back pain, tiredness and abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Alison encourages all women to be proactive and to make an appointment with their GP if they have symptoms they are unsure about, “I would urge every woman to be aware of the common ovarian cancer symptoms, we know our own bodies and what is normal for us, so if something just doesn’t seem quite right for you, take that first step and speak to your GP. No one will think you’re wasting their time, and it could save your life. Don’t put it off; early detection will give you a much better outcome.”