7-times artistic gymnastics Olympic Medal winner, Shannon Miller celebrated five years free of ovarian cancer back in the summer of 2016. After almost missing the early signs of the disease, she is now doing her part by spreading awareness about these easy-to-miss symptoms.
Ovarian cancer is the deadliest form of female reproductive cancer. According to estimations by the American Cancer Society (ACS), more than 22,000 women were diagnosis and more than 14,000 died from ovarian cancer in 2016.
When discovered early, a large percentage of patients – 94% – live longer than five years, the ACS estimates. The trouble is, only 20% of ovarian cancers are found early.
Early Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer often confused with other ailments.
According to Dr. Linus Chuang, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, this type of cancer rarely cause any early symptoms. In the few cases when it does, the symptoms such as including abdominal pain or discomfort, abdominal swelling or bloating, weight loss, and urination urgency, may easily be confused with other ailments.
- abdominal pain or discomfort
- abdominal swelling or bloating
- weight loss
- urination urgency
Before her diagnosis, 39-year-old Miller had been experiencing severe stomach aches and bloating. She had lost six pounds. The former athlete attributed her discomfort to her period, and assumed her weight loss was a normal part of the cycle since she had recently given birth to her son.
Luckily, Miller’s doctors discovered the cyst on her ovary right away. The treatment included surgery and chemotherapy, and now the former athlete says she thanks God every day that she is still here. She is also spreading awareness in order to encourage other women to heed the early warning signs she nearly missed.
So what are these elusive clues that abdominal or urinary symptoms could actually be the warning signs of something more serious? As Dr. Chuang puts it, “they are more common in frequency, worsen progressively, and recur more frequently. If your symptoms are persistent or worsening, seek gynecologic care.”
Shannon Miller is now a spokesperson for a company that developed a blood test called OVA1, which helps doctors determine if a pelvic mass is cancerous, and whether surgery is necessary. She encourages women everywhere to visit KnowPelvicMass.com and get more information on early detection.
“I was lucky my doctors caught my cancer early,” the Oklahoma-born gymnast told People. “But I don’t want other women to count on luck.”