Ovarian Cancer – an Invisible Disease

She’s elderly.  And for more than six months, she has complained with what seemed to be gastro-intestinal symptoms. Bloat, pain, fullness, lack of appetite, swelling and more.  Tests on her gastro system including CT scans, ultrasound and an MRI were run and – nothing.  Some of her current drugs, including Zoloft, were cut back to relieve the symptoms. Still nothing. Finally the doctor told her he couldn’t find anything – it must be her age.

Three weeks ago, she began running a fever, the bloating increased, she became listless, and thinking she had the flu, she was moved from assisted living to the hospital.  In treating her for the flu, one very sharp nurse practitioner began to think the flu might not be the problem. 

Sure enough — a tentative diagnosis of ovarian cancer, with a possibility of peritoneal cancer came forth and surgery a few days later revealed that her body was riddled with tumors.  Blockages and fluid were everywhere.  The surgeon removed as many as he could, and she “enjoyed” her first chemo treatment a week later.  The prognosis, considering her age, is still tentative.  She’ll be moved to a nursing home in a few days.

But the question remains — why didn’t any of the doctors suspect ovarian cancer?  In reading about it after we got the diagnosis, I find that her symptoms were very typical!  Ovarian cancer is very hard to detect…. but perhaps part of that difficulty is that doctors don’t think to look for it?

Her life may have been saved by the nurse practitioner — so my thanks and gratitude go out to her.  But I will forever wonder if the prognosis wouldn’t have been better had the doctor been on his toes. 

If you are female, and you have gastro-problem type symtoms that you can’t get answers for — please ask your doctor to check you for ovarian cancer!

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