Student thought she was tired because of exam stress actually had ovarian cancer

Anna Maria Szalay was studying for her university exams, as well as working a part-time job and finishing up her coursework.

She thought that was the reason she was always tired. But just a few months later, she was told that it was actually because she had ovarian cancer at just 19.

She tells ‘The symptoms of ovarian cancer aren’t very well known so I never thought about anything like that. I thought it was just university stress.’

Anna Maria was in the second year of her law degree at Oxford Brookes University when started feeling unwell around September 2017 – but with so much going on, she initially put off going to the doctor, thinking it was nothing serious.

In December, as she started to feel worse, she went to see her GP but it took three visits before she was referred on – something that is common with ovarian cancer symptoms.

Ovarian Cancer Action found that on average it takes a woman eight visits to the GP to be diagnosed.

It was particularly difficult for Anna Maria because of her age – according to Cancer Research, just two in 100,000 people between the ages of 15 and 19 are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.

Anna Maria says: ‘I was brushed off numerous times. That’s common with lots of people but I think particularly because I was so young. It can spread quite quickly so it’s important that it is caught early.’

By then, Anna Maria also had persistent bloating, unexplained weight loss and a change in bowel movements but admits that she didn’t realise they were all things that show it could be ovarian cancer because they are symptoms for so many things.

The third GP she saw told her to trust her instincts that something was wrong because we know our bodies better than anyone.

She was referred for a blood test and scan, which showed that she had a mass on her ovary. Doctors told her that they thought it was cancerous but they wouldn’t know how advanced it was until she had surgery to remove it.

‘I knew something was wrong but I just didn’t ever think it would be cancer so it was a huge shock to the system,’ she says.

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