Fiona's experience of diagnosis with ovarian cancer at the age of 30 shows how difficult it can be for younger women to receive early detection, as symptoms may be masked.
"In August 2015, I had surgery due to internal bleeding caused by a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.
Following this I experienced abdominal pain, swelling and frequent urination and so went to see my GP on a number of occasions over an 8-week period. She assured me that these symptoms were due to irritation caused by the internal bleeding but referred me for an ultrasound to alleviate my concerns.
Can you see ovarian cancer on an ultrasound?
The radiologist noted I had large cysts on both of my ovaries, each measuring over 5cm across. She said one looked ‘abnormal’ and perhaps a post-surgery infection was causing my symptoms. I mentioned my family history of ovarian cancer and asked if she thought I should be concerned. She said it was unlikely at my age but that she would refer me to see a consultant gynaecologist and arrange for my GP to take a CA125 blood test.
He told me that he was not concerned and I was not at risk of ovarian cancerFiona
"I first saw my gynaecologist on 8 December 2015. He confirmed that my CA125 levels were elevated but that he was not concerned because this can also indicate an infection. He asked about sexual partners and said he was going to test me for STIs. I stated that I had been with my husband for seven years and that I was concerned about ovarian cancer due to my persistent symptoms and family history of the disease.
He told me that he was not concerned and I was not at risk of ovarian cancer. He conducted a painful internal examination, took blood tests and asked me to return in three weeks, reassuring me that my symptoms should have passed by then.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
Over the next few weeks my abdominal swelling reached a point where I was unable to eat and I was growing increasingly anxious about my health.
When I returned to see the gynaecologist he let me know that my tests had come back clear from infection. I explained that my symptoms had progressed so he conducted an ultrasound and said he would repeat the CA125 test to eliminate ovarian cancer as a risk factor, reassuring me he still thought I had a post-surgery infection.
At a follow-up appointment he said my CA125 test results had risen but he had met with my surgeon and two oncologists and they agreed that if I had ovarian cancer it would have been detected at the time of my surgery. He reassured me again that I had a post-surgery infection and booked me in for a laparoscopy for late January.
Two weeks later the abdominal swelling and pain got to the stage that I was unable to do anything. The gynaecologist conducted another ultrasound that showed a build up of fluid and I was admitted to hospital that night where five litres were drained from my abdominal cavity.
I was assured that this was a sign of infection, given antibiotics and asked to come in the following week for an MRI. When I came in I was told that the fluid had tested clear from infection and that the lab were conducting further tests. I was not surprised; I was still convinced I had ovarian cancer.
The further tests confirmed my worst fears. The fluid contained ovarian cancer cells.
Diagnosing ovarian cancer
The following day I was taken for a CT scan. It showed that my cancer was at an advanced stage and I was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer on 3 February 2016.
I started my treatment on the same day and, although I can expect a long journey to my recovery, I feel nothing but positivity and happiness towards my health and life. I know I will have many loved ones cheering me on from the sidelines.
My story goes to demonstrate how hard it is to identify and diagnose ovarian cancer. I want to share my story with others and hopefully inspire them to be proactive in their health, to listen to their bodies and to trust their instincts as I did.
Young women and ovarian cancer
I want more women to be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and for more healthcare professionals to recognise that young women, especially those with a family history, are also at risk of this terrible disease.
Together we can increase awareness about the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Together we can save lives."