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Caroline Raphael: " I assumed that it was irritable bowel syndrome, and so did my doctor"

30 June 2017

Caroline Raphael

Caroline went to the doctor after she started having stomach cramps. Fortunately she was referred quickly, meaning her ovarian cancer was caught at an early stage. She shares her story in the hope of encouraging other women to act on unusual symptoms quickly.

“I was getting terrible stomach cramps just before I needed to go to the loo. They got so painful that I couldn’t speak. I remember talking to a shop assistant and just staring at her and mentally willing her to carry on talking while I internalised the pain.

Looking back, I had lost weight too, but not a massive amount. At the time I put the weight loss down to the fact that I’d just moved house and there was a lot of going up and down stairs.

But if there’s no real reason for your weight loss, and you’re not dieting - then question it. At the time it may feel a bit like a boon, but it may not be.

I was diagnosed as having stage 1 ovarian cancer, so they got it early. I think the fact that I’m very good at going to the doctor definitely helped.

I don’t put my head in the sand. My symptoms were going on for ten days before I made my GP appointment. And even that was longer than I wanted because I was moving house.

I was worried but I assumed that it was irritable bowel syndrome, and so did my doctor.

Now with the NICE recommendations, I think perhaps my GP would have clocked that - because I was over 50 years of age, and experiencing IBS symptoms for the first time - hang on a minute, it’s more likely to be something else.  

I’d say be brave and go to your doctor because it’s not going to go away.

Do you want to face up to the chance that it’s stage one ovarian cancer now or wait until all they can do is extend your life?

I do realise that even stage one ovarian cancer and a hysterectomy are a phenomenal blow, particularly for younger women.

But it’s simple, going to your doctor might save your life.”

Ovarian cancer claims the life of another woman every two hours. But, with your donations, we can nail this disease once and for all.