We weren’t very knowledgeable on the specifics of Uterine cancer. The fact of the matter is, when mom’s symptoms first presented they were mistaken for something else. She didn’t waste any time making the doctor’s appointment to find out what was wrong. Mom and I talked about it and we wondered if she should push to have gynecological tests done as well…yet we put our trust in the medical professionals who were sure that urological tests were the right course of action. As we’d find out later, we were unfortunately headed down the wrong path. This led to a fatal delay in mom’s diagnosis. My mother was concerned, having already had colorectal cancer and beaten it, that the problems she was having were something more serious. She later said, she already knew it was cancer then, but she feared that she was jumping to conclusions. After enduring a number of urological tests that were inconclusive, mom’s symptoms temporarily subsided. This led her to believe that she indeed was over-reacting, until they came back just two months later. This time, they were worse than before. By the time she saw a gynecologist she had a massive tumour in her uterus. The cancer was very aggressive and was growing rapidly. It was putting pressure on her internal organs and she was in increasingly severe pain. The news that she had incurable cancer came on October 31; Hallowe’en. It was devastating knowing that this disease and the farce that was her diagnosis was going to eventually end her life. Yet we were still confused as to what that actually meant. How long did she have? What was her quality of life going to be? Could they try to remove the tumour to relieve some of this pain? Sadly, when you receive that sort of news, your brain tends to go blank and none of these questions come to mind – until hours or even days, later.
While we were sitting in the hospital at mom’s side in her final days, I sat ruminating on all of what had happened in the previous eight months. Why wasn’t there more awareness about Uterine cancer? Why didn’t we know more than we did when it all started. Why, with mom’s history of cancer, didn’t the medical community err more on the side of caution and do more tests at the beginning? How many other people have been through this or are going to go through the same thing? This was the inspiration for this site. I wanted people to hear mom’s story. I wanted it to benefit others so they wouldn’t necessarily have to go through the same things we did. I know that mom would have wanted that too. The information I have here are all based on mom’s symptoms, more information can be googled or check out the Canadian Cancer Society’s site. http://www.cancer.ca
Please see your doctor for more information.
SYMPTOMS OF UTERINE CANCER
The most common signs and symptoms of uterine cancer include:
- abnormal bleeding from the vagina
- bleeding that starts after menopause
- bleeding with sex
- unusual vaginal discharge can be foul-smelling and pus-like or thin and clear
- pain during sex
- pain or pressure in the pelvic area
Mom also experienced complications due to the size of the tumour. It was putting pressure on her bladder and colon and at some times, partially blocking them as well. So the feeling of a full bladder was a symptom as well, similar to symptoms of a bladder infection.
BE YOUR OWN BEST ADVOCATE
Throughout this journey, we learned that no one will be a better advocate for you, than you can be yourself. That includes asking someone to help you do that if you need to. It’s impossible to remember everything you’re told at appointments or to think of all the questions that you may need to ask. Have someone go with you to the appointments. Keep a medical journal! After mom’s diagnosis, I started to write everything she was going through into a small notebook. I collected the doctor’s business cards, I kept important phone numbers, a list of her medications and what they do, a list of her symptoms. If she had a bad day or even a good day, it was all recorded in the notebook. We did this throughout her first bout with cancer as well. It proved invaluable when talking with new doctors and caregivers. It shows them that you are engaged in your care and also makes them accountable to what they tell you. It also gives you a place to write down your questions so that you can remember them when you have your next appointment.
WHAT ARE YOUR RISK FACTORS?
Looking back I can see that mom displayed many of the typical risk factors that have been known to contribute to the development of cancer. The big one being having already had colorectal cancer. The radiation therapy used to treat her colorectal cancer also increased her risks of developing uterine cancer. There were others as well, such as being overweight, she was diabetic, and she had started menopause after the age of 50.
Other risk factors that mom didn’t have include, starting menstruation early (before the age of 12), never having children, taking estrogen alone (without progesterone), and taking tamoxifen which is used in the treatment of breast cancer. While many women develop uterine cancer who have some of these risk factors, there are many women who have none of these factors that do. Be vigilant in your care. If something seems amiss, see your doctor and don’t be dissuaded from pursuing more tests. Trust your instincts, they could save your life.