Interview 156

Ovarian cancer diagnosed in 1997 following investigations for infertility. Treated by surgical removal of affected ovary followed by chemotherapy. Diagnosis revised as ‘borderline’ and further treatment aborted in preference for regular monitoring.

She and her husband had difficulty conceiving, and a laparoscopy showed that she had a lump the size of an orange on her left ovary. A small sample of the lump was taken, and blood tests conducted. She was soon told that she needed to have the ovary and lump removed, and after analysis, she was diagnosed with having a grade 1 ovarian cancer, which had also spread outside of her pelvis. After waiting for the scar to heal, she started a course of six sessions of chemotherapy (carboplatin). She was concerned that chemotherapy would affect her fertility, and found the oncologist insensitive in suggesting she should not be worrying about children and to perhaps consider adoption. However, she feels that deep down she did not fully believe or accept that she had cancer. She does not have a family history of cancer, and wonders whether food poisoning years before may have had any effect. Her husband and parents found her diagnosis very upsetting, and she feels that support available to them was lacking compared to the support offered to her.

She found the nurses where she had her chemotherapy very supportive. She told close family and friends about her diagnosis and treatment, but did not want work colleagues or people more widely to know. She only had time off work after surgery. She experienced severe sickness during her chemotherapy, and lost some of her hair, but found that she recovered from each session within a few days. Constipation caused by the anti-nausea medication was an unwanted side effect. Prior to and throughout her chemotherapy, she had acupuncture and homeopathy. She found this gave her a lift; and talking to the practitioner was a great source of support.

A biopsy of her remaining ovary showed that it too had grade 1 cancerous cells and these had spread to the top of her uterus. She was informed that she would need her second ovary and uterus removed, followed by chemotherapy treatment with Taxol. She and her husband were unhappy with this prognosis, and researched information on the internet. They suggested to the consultant that they would like a second opinion, but left it at that. The day before the surgery, the consultant told her that the surgery would not be going ahead as a second opinion had been sought, and her cancer was considered borderline.; The decision was made to monitor her condition and to seek a third opinion, which concurred with the second. She understands why the diagnosis was initially made of a grade 1 cancer, but feels that a second opinion could have been sought sooner, and prevented her being scheduled for surgery. She felt relieved that only one ovary was removed, as this left open the possibility of having a family.

She was offered IVF to try to assist her and her husband in having a baby, as it was envisaged that at some point she would still need to have her ovary and uterus removed. On the second course of IVF she became pregnant and had a baby. Her pregnancy was healthy and she had a natural labour. She and her husband then conceived again, naturally this time, and now have two young children. She now has check-up appointments every six months involving scans and blood tests. She has in the back of her mind that the cancer may come back. She anticipates having her ovary removed and a hysterectomy in the near future, and hopes that this will reduce her risk of a cancer recurrence. She feels that screening pre-menopausal women could be beneficial, as she did not have any noticeable symptoms that she was aware of. She urges people to ask questions and request a second opinion if they feel uncomfortable with or uncertain about a diagnosis. Having cancer had a major impact; and she feels that now she does not really fear anything after having been though it and coming out the other side.

After having one cancerous ovary removed, a hysterectomy was cancelled because a 2nd opinion…

Age at interview 38

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 33