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Woman shares timeline of symptoms that led doctors to finding 30cm ovarian tumour

Woman shares timeline of symptoms that led doctors to finding 30cm ovarian tumour

Emma was just 23 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer

Emma Colledge was just 23 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

After first experiencing symptoms in February 2022, Emma waited over six months before a 30cm tumour was found on an ultrasound scan.

Here, she explains the signs and symptoms that led to her diagnosis, and urges others - no matter what their age - to seek medical attention if they encounter symptoms.

Emma has revealed the signs and symptoms that led to her diagnosis.
Emma Colledge

February 2022

Emma first started experiencing unexplained bloating in February 2022.

A huge 63 percent of us experience this kind of digestive discomfort, so when it first started, Emma didn't think too much of it.

Having just started a new job as a prison officer and instructor with the army cadets, Emma did her best to carry on, initially putting the bloating down to the foods she was eating.

But when she noticed a hard lump in her stomach, her concerns began to grow.

Initially, she wondered if she could be pregnant, but this was soon ruled out with a quick test.

"I continued with life as I felt fine, but I started getting annoyed that my work trousers were getting tighter," Emma says while speaking to Tyla.

"I also needed to wee more but again I didn’t think anything of it, except my belly was large and hard. I managed to get a doctor’s appointment and they said ‘are you sure you’re not pregnant?’"

August 2022

Six months later and while waiting for an ultrasound scan, Emma explained that she struggled to eat without feeling sick.

"I went to the walk-in centre, they gave me anti sickness tablets and rang my doctor to get me this scan as he was concerned why my stomach was so hard," she tells us.

"I went away for two weeks with the cadets, living life as normal as possible. I still struggled to eat but I didn’t want it to stop me doing anything."

When Emma had a doctor's appointment once she had returned, she was booked in for an emergency blood test and an urgent, two-week referral to gynaecology.

September 2022

Before Emma could have the scan, she began experiencing severe pain in her lower abdomen.

She went to A&E where she was immediately taken in for an ultrasound, which is when doctors discovered a 30cm tumour.

"They admitted me into hospital to do further scans and blood tests, and the plan was for planned surgery to get the cyst removed," she explains.

"But I had a CT scan the following morning and it came back as stage 3C ovarian cancer. I never in a million years thought that at the age of 23 I would be going through this."

Stage 3C tumours are defined as being bigger than 2cm and are found outside the pelvis within the tummy.

There may be cancer cells on the outside of the liver or spleen and nearby lymph nodes may or may not contain cancer cells.

"On the 22nd of September, I had my first surgery to remove the cyst. It was successful; however, they did find deposits of cancer on some of my other organs, so they took biopsies," Emma adds.

"A fortnight later, I had my second surgery where they successfully removed all visible signs of cancer as well as taking out my spleen. I also had a full hysterectomy. This broke my heart but if it saved my life.

"There are so many ways I can still be able to have a family."

Emma began suffering with bloating.
Emma Colledge

March 2024

Emma's surgery was successful and she later went through six rounds of chemotherapy.

Due to having a hysterectomy, Emma went through an early menopause, which she found challenging.

"I’ve come to terms with it now, at first the menopause was so bad and I tried everything the doctors could give me, but the hot flushes have settled right down now which is good," she tells us.

Thankfully, Emma is now cancer-free and working at the cadets full-time.

"I still get really annoyed when I think about how long I went without an ultrasound scan, but I try to make jokes now," she says.

"It just makes me think how many other people are waiting for scans. It’s nearly been a year cancer free and I have a total different outlook on life now which is making me enjoy it so much more. I’m thriving."

Emma had surgery in September to remove the tumour.
Emma Colledge

Ovarian Cancer Action explain that there are a number of symptoms to look out for. These are:

  • Persistent stomach pain
  • Persistent bloating
  • Difficulty eating/feeling full more quickly
  • Needing to wee more frequently

Other symptoms might also include:

  • Indigestion
  • Back pain
  • Changes in bowel habits (going more often or a lot less)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Post-menopausal vaginal bleeding
  • Extreme tiredness

If you are experiencing these symptoms, please book a GP appointment as soon as possible.

"It means the world to me that more people are aware of this. I thought I was aware of the symptoms, but I never thought it could happen to someone as young as me," says Emma.

"There’s good days and bad days, but we have to stick together."

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, 8am–8pm seven days a week.

Featured Image Credit: Emma Colledge

Topics: Health