Rare disease patients know what it’s like to go without a diagnosis despite enduring symptoms. Doctors often don’t recognize the disorders for a number of reasons, whether that’s the similarity of symptoms to other conditions, low awareness, misdiagnosis, or something else. Hannah Catton, a 24-year-old from Australia, experienced this firsthand after living with undiagnosed ovarian cancer for over two years.
Hannah is no stranger to the doctor’s office. In the years before her diagnosis, she made numerous trips to the doctor’s in an effort to find out what was causing her symptoms. They explained these symptoms away as urinary tract infections or stress, telling her to lose weight or prescribing antibiotics as a solution.
The closest any doctor got to a diagnosis was one gynecologist, who told her she had a benign fibroid on her uterus. The concern level wasn’t high, and Hannah was instructed to wait 90 days for surgery. Unfortunately, it was impossible to wait these 90 days, as she collapsed while horseback riding in October of last year.
She was rushed to the hospital, and it was there that she finally received an ovarian cancer diagnosis. Doctors found a tumor that was nearly 8 inches wide and had ruptured; they rushed to remove it surgically. Afterwards, they started Hannah on a chemotherapy regimen.
The situation has been difficult, especially as Hannah’s family – who live back in England, where she’s originally from – is not allowed to come visit due to COVID-19 restrictions. Luckily, she has lots of love and support from her friends in Australia to help her through. Two have even set up a GoFundMe to help her out during this process.
In the end, Hannah wants to let other young women know to be persistent with their doctors if they’re experiencing similar symptoms. She urges others to recognize that “this is not just a cancer which affects older women.”
About Ovarian Cancer
As the name suggests, ovarian cancer forms in the ovaries, two organs besides the uterus that store eggs and produce hormones. There are four forms of this cancer: small cell carcinoma of the ovary (SCCO), germ cell carcinoma tumors, epithelial tumors, and stromal carcinoma tumors. While all of these types differ slightly in the symptoms they cause, common effects include abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, bloating, urinary symptoms, and pelvic pain. Medical professionals are unsure as to what exactly causes this cancer and the accompanying symptoms, but they have identified a mutated gene that raises one’s chance of developing ovarian cancer: the BRCA gene.
Surgical removal of the Fallopian tubes, ovaries, omentum, uterus, and nearby lymph nodes is the major form of treatment for this cancer. In some cases, doctors only have to remove one ovary and Fallopian tube. Other treatment options include chemotherapy, medications, and radiation therapy.
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