Wanda Lawson is part of the Consumer Research Panel at ANZGOG, improving the lives of women with a gynaecological cancer through research.
Here, Wanda talks about the seven symptoms women should look out for.
Our incredible bodies are constantly sending us helpful signals from I’m starving and need to eat, to I’m tired and need to lie down. We are always happy to listen and act quickly with a hearty breakfast or an early night.
When I started losing weight and experiencing fatigue after taking up Bikram yoga, i just thought these were normal effects of my new exercise regime. I actually had no idea that my body was trying to tell me something important. Even when I annoyingly needed the bathroom twice in one work meeting, I still didn’t listen.
My body was trying to tell me that I had ovarian cancer, but I had no idea that these vague symptoms were critical signs that something wasn’t right.
1500 women in Australia are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year but we still don’t have a screening test for the disease, so detection really relies on our awareness of symptoms. It’s so important that we talk about ovarian cancer with family, friends and loved ones to highlight these critical symptoms.
There are 7 common symptoms for ovarian cancer that we should all be conscious of and if you experience any unusual or persistent symptoms, you should ask your GP to be referred to a gynaecological oncologist:
- Abdominal bloating or increased abdominal size
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Appetite loss, feeling full quickly or indigestion
- Urinary changes, such as frequency or urgency
- Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- Unexplained fatigue
Luckily, my GP had an increased awareness of ovarian cancer and we found the cancer relatively early which helped save my life.
After a complete hysterectomy, the removal of lymph glands from my leg, six months of chemotherapy and a Quality of Life clinical trial, I came out the other side with the biggest commitment to regain my health. Staying alive another day is a massive achievement but one of things I’m most proud of is ice climbing in Alaska just six months after chemotherapy.
I have now been cancer free for 16 years and I am so happy to be able to use my experience to help improve the future outcomes for other women affected by ovarian cancer and the other six gynaecological cancers.
I am currently the Chair of the voluntary ANZGOG Consumer Research Panel (CRP), where gynaecological cancer survivors and their carers share vital advice with medical professionals to help shape future research and clinical trials at ANZGOG, the peak national gynaecological cancer research organisation. Without research it’s very likely that I wouldn’t be alive today.
World Ovarian Cancer Day is on May 8. Wanda Lawson is part of the Consumer Research Panel at ANZGOG, improving the lives of women with a gynaecological cancer through research.