Nurse’s first three symptoms of cancer which were mistaken for IBS

Nurse’s first three symptoms of cancer which were mistaken for IBS


What are the signs of ovarian cancer?

Experiencing acid reflux, stomach pains and abdominal discomfort, nurse Reeta Kumar, 57, sought the advice of a doctor.

A locum GP, upon hearing the symptoms, attributed them to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

“This could’ve had devastating effects had I not spoken to another professional,” Reeta, from Loughborough, said.

As her stomach pains continued, a check-up with another doctor got to the root of the problem.

“The doctor who was managing my HRT [hormone replacement therapy for menopause] conducted a small scan and then referred me to someone else,” Reeta remembered.

READ MORE ‘My intermittent stomach pain turned out to be cancer – I couldn’t stop crying’

“I wasn’t worried. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone about the scan. As I lay there, the chatter subsided and the room went very quiet.

“They’d seen something they didn’t like. So I asked what could it be. ‘Cancer,’ she said.”

Reeta was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer; a tumour had grown in her reproductive organs.

Had it not been for the medical check-up, the cancer could have progressed further, and Reeta reflected: “I might not be sat here today.”

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Sharing her story with the leading charity Target Ovarian Cancer, Reeta spoke of stigma surrounding cancer.

“There is some awkwardness and embarrassment within the Asian community, particularly about cancer,” said Reeta. “And it’s much more heightened with gynaecological issues.”

But, having undergone life-saving surgery and chemotherapy, Reeta wants to help raise awareness about the illness.

“Knowing the symptoms of this disease is vital to receiving an early diagnosis,” said Reeta.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer, as shared by Target Ovarian Cancer:

  • Persistent bloating (not bloating that comes and goes)
  • Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain (that’s from your tummy to the top of your thighs)
  • Urinary symptoms (needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual)

Occasionally, other symptoms might include:

  • Changes in bowel habit (e.g. diarrhoea or constipation)
  • Extreme fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Any unusual bleeding from the vagina before or after the menopause should always be investigated by a GP.

Reeta said: “We need to focus on taking away the stigma of gynaecology health, speaking about these symptoms and tailoring conversations to women across all communities – and encouraging everyone to talk about the issues affecting them.”

Reeta is taking on the Target Ovarian Cancer Walk Run event in London’s Regent’s Park on Sunday, October 22, 2023.

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