A young doctor’s awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer has been credited with getting prompt treatment for Larne woman Carol Bareham.
Carol, a mum of two, went to her GP on her return from a family holiday in Egypt in summer 2015 with the symptoms of what she believed to be a lingering tummy bug.
After providing a stool sample, she returned for an examination by a young doctor who detected a lump.
Carol said: “He asked about weight loss. I had lost a stone in a month. He also said that I must have been feeling very tired.
“I was booked in for an ultrasound scan which showed a growth on my left ovary.”
This was confirmed by a CT scan as well as a second large tumour on the right and cancer on her liver.
Carol, who was aged 42, was then referred to Belfast City Hospital for chemotherapy which started that October and continued until December.
“When you have cancer spreading like wildfire, every day feels like an eternity.
“The wait was really hard because you know what’s inside you. I didn’t want to know the scary statistics, I just wanted to get through chemo, one day at a time.”
After four-week respite, she had an operation to remove both ovaries, womb and cervix.
“Every little visible spot they could see, they removed with a laser.”
She finished treatment in February 2016.
“The most difficult part is when the treatment is over – the uncertainty. You’ve been in a treatment bubble. I liken it to one of those old-fashioned cartoon characters running off the edge of a cliff. Mentally, that’s a very hard time.”
Unfortunately, the cancer has since recurred but Carol remains optimistic.
“It is a tiny spot on a lymph node and is not affecting any major organs. It is a case of watch and wait as long as there are no symptoms.”
“People think that a cervical smear picks up on ovarian cancer but it doesn’t. That is why I want to raise awareness.”
She urged women to look out for the symptoms.
“If your stomach is bloated, you have trouble fastening your trousers, if you go up a size in clothes and not over-eating or you notice change in your bowel habits, go to your GP.”
She stressed that women should ask their GP to rule out ovarian cancer before they start to consider other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
“Stormont has not provided the awareness campaign that it promised, so it is up to women to inform other women. I have seen women lose their lives to this disease.
“It is about symptom awareness. If a women has the symptoms of ovarian cancer for two or more weeks, go to your GP and do not be fobbed off, make them aware of the possibility of ovarian cancer and get them to rule it out first.”
Symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating.
Difficulty eating/feeling full.
Pelvic or abdominal pain.
Needing to wee more urgently or more often.
Other symptoms can include unexpected weight loss, change in bowel habits, and extreme fatigue.