What are the signs of ovarian cancer?
When Amanda Davies started experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, painful periods and swelling she was told by doctors she was perimenopausal.
However, the then 42-year-old, from Pembrokeshire in Wales, knew there was more to it than that.
She recalled her symptoms: “I started getting stomach problems, feeling bloated, lots of IBS symptoms, I thought there is something more to it.
“I had massive pains to the point I would have to come home from work. Severe bloating.
“I was constantly going to the toilet to change, it was awful to think people were watching me walk across the corridor at work.
Amanda Davies pictured left with a wig after chemo and right in recovery
“I constantly felt the need to be eating something. But I wouldn’t be able to finish my food. I would eat as much as I could then an hour later I would be hungry again.
“I was going to the toilet more than usual, but I didn’t see it as a pattern until afterwards.
“At my time of the month I went up two dress sizes and I would come back down.”
But doctors dismissed these signs, saying they were down to her age.
Amanda, now 48, told Wales Online: “I kept going back and for the doctors saying I am struggling with my time of the month, they said you are probably peri menopausal. It was, ‘It’s your age, it’s stress, it’s your job’.
“I didn’t see the same doctor each time, so they didn’t pick up how many times I was going there.”
Amanda in hospital
She went back and forth to the doctors for 18 months with these problems before she finally got answers.
Since Amanda lives with a congenital heart condition, her GP advised her to consult her cardiologist about the problems she was experiencing. “I was really worried it was my heart,” she said.
In 2016 her cardiologist performed an ultrasound on her heart and prescribed her water tablets which made her sick.
This prompted a GP to feel her stomach which concerned him as he thought she could have a blocked bowel. Due to this she was told to go to A&E.
Amanda said: “They started doing scans, they said you have the doctor to thank for this – my cardiologist had put on my notes to have urgent scans, because he knew there was something wrong.
“Then at 3am that morning, they told me it was a cancerous mass. A stage three tumour.”
General symptoms of cancer to look for
An oncology team told Amanda she had a low grade serous ovarian cancer.
The type of mass she had starts out very slow growing and can go undetected for years until later stages when it becomes more aggressive.
However, no one with her heart condition had ever undergone chemotherapy before due to the risks, but she decided to go for it.
Luckily the chemo was successful and was followed up by a full hysterectomy in February 2017.
Amanda added: “Chemo is hard, probably one of the hardest things you will ever do. I remember my biology teacher said chemotherapy is the closest you can come to being poisoned without dying.
“I had anaphylactic shock with the first session. It was the rate it was going into my body, they had to reduce the speed of the drip by half.
“It was an unknown test because of the heart condition. Instead of the normal sessions where people would have a day there then go back in three week, they had to do it at a lower dosage over a longer period of time”
Six months after the hysterectomy Amanda suffered an embolism and went into stage four heart failure.
She was treated with warfarin to move the clot and eventually needed an operation on her heart to replace a valve.
However, Amanda is extremely grateful to the NHS for the treatment she has received over the years for both her heart and cancer.
She said: “They have saved my life more than once. I feel really privileged to get up in the morning.”
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
According to the NHS, symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
- A swollen tummy or feeling bloated
- Pain or tenderness in your tummy or the area between the hips (pelvis)
- No appetite or feeling full quickly after eating
- An urgent need to urinate or needing to urinate more often
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Back pain
- Feeling tired all the time
- Losing weight without trying
- Bleeding from the vagina after the menopause.
If you experience symptoms of ovarian cancer you should speak to your GP.