Know the symptoms of ovarian cancer: 23-year-old survivor spreads the word

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PARKER, Colo. (KDVR) – Know the symptoms. That’s the message a 23-year-old from Parker is hoping to spread for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Emily Pickthall remembers the day she was diagnosed. “That was just the scariest moment. I’m like, I’m only 21,” she said. 

It is rare to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer at such a young age, but it happens. Pickthall says she knew something was wrong, but she never knew to talk to her doctor about the possibility of ovarian cancer.

“If I had learned about the symptoms, and knew beforehand, I may have caught it earlier,” she said. 

Now she wants to spread the word. Symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, feeling full very quickly, abdominal pain, nausea, or a change in bowel habits.

The problem is, those could be symptoms of many other diseases as well.

Dr. Saketh Guntupalli, a gynecological oncologist at UCHealth, says ovarian cancer is a disease that whispers, and these kinds of symptoms should prompt a discussion with your doctor.

“It is something, I think, that is really important to at least have a discussion about, because what we don’t want to do is miss an early stage ovarian cancer that we can potentially cure,” Dr. Guntupalli said. 

If caught at stage one or two, Dr. Guntupalli says ovarian cancer has an 80% cure rate. But, the doctor says 75% of women are diagnosed at stage three or four.

“So because the symptoms are not very specific, people tend to ignore them,” he said.

Dr. Guntupalli says patients need to advocate for themselves, and talk about their symptoms. That’s something Pickthall agrees with.

“Honestly you kind of have to demand answers,” she said. 

After surgeries, and six rounds of chemotherapy at UCHealth, her cancer is now undetectable.

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