The West

Lucky to pick up silent cancer
Helen Clark. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Having a burst ovarian cyst was traumatic but it probably saved the life of Perth nurse Helen Clark after it led to a routine check that discovered cancer.

Luckily her ovarian cancer was not advanced, unlike most cases of the disease which are picked up late when the prognosis is poor.

Often called the silent women's disease, ovarian cancer has vague symptoms that can be confused with indigestion and period pain. The most common symptoms are abdominal or pelvic pain, increased abdominal size or persistent bloating, the need to go to the toilet often and a full feeling when eating.

"As a nurse and fitness instructor, I considered myself to be fairly in touch with my body but even I made the mistake of thinking that bloating and abdominal pain was something like my appendix," Ms Clark said.

"It didn't even cross my mind that it would be cancer but what turned out to be a burst ovarian cyst was then stage one ovarian cancer.

"I could see how easily my cancer could have been left until it was too late."

Now fully recovered after surgery and chemotherapy, the 52-year-old is helping to raise awareness about today's World Ovarian Cancer Day, including the recently established Ladybird Foundation which is supporting the Women and Infants Research Foundation's gynaecological cancer research.

The West Australian

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