One “bloated” 26-year-old woman recently learned that her pregnant-looking belly was in fact caused by 14 pounds of stage 3 cancerous tumors in her ovaries.
The New Zealander has since had surgery to remove the growths and a full hysterectomy, and is now undergoing chemotherapy.
Sarah Nicholson told Chronicle Live that she began having abdominal pain, fatigue, loss of appetite and a change in toilet habits last year, and she suspected she was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
“I had symptoms which could have been of things less serious, like irritable bowel syndrome,” the Cochrane Park, Newcastle resident said. “But I had a round bloated stomach, which looked as if I was pregnant, and I knew it was just not right.”
A doctor’s scan soon revealed that Nicholson in fact had two tumors in one ovary, one weighing 10-pounds and the other 4-pounds. Worse, the malignant growths were stage 3 cancer.
“Part of me crumbled inside. The other part was kind of relieved that I had a diagnosis,” Nicholson recalled of her diagnosis. “They said I was at stage 3 — that’s one stage away from being terminal. This was really serious and I knew it was going to affect my future.”
Nicholson underwent surgery to remove the tumors and also made the decision to have a full hysterectomy.
“For me it was a no-brainer and I decided to have it. I did not want the risk,” she said of her choice. “It was a difficult decision to make and it was upsetting because it would mean I would never have children of my own.
“But it was to give me a better chance of life. It was the right thing for me to do,” she added.
Known as the “silent killer”, the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often believed to be less severe medical issues. Ovarian cancer is the tenth most common cancer and the fifth-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Chronicle reports that though roughly eight in every 10 cases of the disease are diagnosed in women over the age of 50, ovarian cancer also affects hundreds of younger women each year, prompting Nicholson to advocate for awareness.
“[Ovarian cancer] clearly can happen to younger people which is why I feel so strongly about getting the message out to younger women,” she told the outlet.
“I would ask people to listen to your body. You know your body best and if you think something is not right, get it checked out.”
Back in May, an anonymous Connecticut woman made headlines for having a 132-pound ovarian tumor removed from her abdomen.
Fox News' Zoe Szathmary contributed to this report.