Why did they take my womb away if there was no cancer? DR ELLIE CANNON answers your questions
I suffered for two years with intermittent bleeding during intercourse, bloating, back pain and frequent urination and occasional heavy periods.
My GP initially told me I needed to lose weight but later, suspecting it was ovarian cancer, referred me for a full hysterectomy.
After the operation, tests showed it wasn’t cancer after all. I’d actually been suffering from ovarian cysts and a fibroid. I was shocked, and now think I went through all that needlessly. What do you say?
Ovarian cancer is difficult to spot, as symptoms can be quite non specific and mild until it is quite advanced – which is one reason that fewer than half of women diagnosed with the disease live more than five years.
So if doctors do suspect a woman has ovarian cancer, they’ll often fast track her for treatment as tests may not be definitive.
Bloating, a change in urinary symptoms and back pain are listed as classic signs of ovarian cancer. In addition, fibroids and ovarian cysts can show up as masses on scans that look like tumours.
In such cases, surgery to remove the mass would usually be recommended. This also allows surgeons to see the nearby organs like the womb and remove any glands or parts that also look possibly cancerous.
Ovarian cancer is difficult to spot, as symptoms can be quite non specific and mild until it is quite advanced – which is one reason that fewer than half of women diagnosed with the disease live more than five years. [File image]
From the perspective of a hard-to-treat cancer, this approach makes sense. But of course, if it is not cancer, this is a huge operation with consequences and complications that one could class as unnecessary.
Medical decision-making is fraught with situations like this. It’s not that mistakes are made, but because scanning is often not clear enough to distinguish a tumour from benign tissue.
Often, tumours can be hard-to-reach, or results less than conclusive, so surgery is considered in the patient’s best interest at the outset.
I do hear stories like these from time to time, and I’d like to hear from any other readers who feel they’ve had unnecessary cancer ops.
Please write to me at the address at the bottom of this page, and let me know.
I have osteoarthritis in my right knee joint but I want to avoid having a replacement.
I’ve read recently about a treatment called platelet-rich plasma which involves a series of injections of one’s own blood into the knee.
Can you offer any advice on this?
Knee osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis, causing the joint to be painful and stiff.
The condition varies greatly between people – from mild with few symptoms, to very severe where people consider surgery the only viable choice.
At this stage we don’t yet know how well platelet-rich plasma injections work, as there is not enough evidence.
It is a relatively new treatment which involves taking plasma and platelets – components of blood – from a person and injecting it into their knee.
This is done using an ultrasound machine to ensure the injection goes into the right area, inside the joint.
Knee osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis, causing the joint to be painful and stiff. The condition varies greatly between people – from mild with few symptoms, to very severe where people consider surgery the only viable choice. [File image]
The blood cells are believed to stimulate the natural healing process within the body and help encourage the cartilage in the knee to be repaired.
NHS specialists are allowed to offer the treatment as long as patients realise that it may not work and it is a relatively new treatment.
They are also supposed to have regular follow-ups to check if it has worked, and to monitor any side effects.
There are no major safety concerns. At this stage it is recommended to be used in those with milder symptoms.
A knee replacement involves replacing the joint with an artificial one – it is a common operation in the UK with a good safety record.
Roughly six weeks after surgery, most people stop using walking sticks, while full recovery can take up to two years.
I fell down the stairs last week, and didn’t see any bruises or bumps at the time.
A week on, I feel so achy I can barely move. I am in pain most of the time.
Oddly, I also feel shivery and generally weak. Have I done myself serious damage?
This is not something that surprises me, and it is likely that two different things are going on.
When I was a younger GP, I noticed a tendency that I would often see children with infections or viruses, very soon after a fall or head injury.
Either it is a complete coincidence, which can happen with health problems – you have one thing, and something else crops up spontaneously.
When I was a younger GP, I noticed a tendency that I would often see children with infections or viruses, very soon after a fall or head injury. Either it is a complete coincidence, which can happen with health problems – you have one thing, and something else crops up spontaneously. [File image]
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Do you have a question for Dr Ellie Cannon? Email [email protected]
This is especially true with children who have bumps and knocks a lot.
But what could also be happening is that in the few days leading up to the virus or infection, someone is a bit more wobbly, a bit more prone to accidents and not feeling themselves which causes them to have a fall or an injury.
They then come down with the symptoms of the virus.
Feeling achy, weak and shivery are the typical symptoms of a virus like flu, Covid or any of the winter viruses doing the rounds at the moment.
Usually any serious damage from a fall would be obvious, with a specific pain or weakness in one area.
If the symptoms last for more than two weeks, it is worth a review with your doctor.
Don’t put off a prostate biopsy: It could be vital
Earlier this month a reader wrote to me asking whether he needed to have a prostate biopsy – his GP recommended it due to worrying blood test results, and he was nervous.
A biopsy is a minor procedure, carried out in hospital. In this case, it involves a needle being inserted into the prostate gland a number of times to take tissue samples. It can be done under a general or local anaesthetic.
Some men who have a local anaesthetic report some pain. This is mentioned on the NHS website, and my patients have confirmed this.
A biopsy is a minor procedure, carried out in hospital. In this case, it involves a needle being inserted into the prostate gland a number of times to take tissue samples. It can be done under a general or local anaesthetic [File image]
After that article, I received a flurry of letters from men saying they’d undergone biopsies that hadn’t been painful at all – uncomfortable at most.
They were also worried people might be put off by my description, which is the last thing I want. Be reassured: biopsies are routine procedures, but also vital.
A biopsy is the only way we can tell for certain if a man has prostate cancer. If we pick it up, we can tackle it.
Treatment is very effective these days. If you think you’ve got problems, the worst thing is to not seek a proper diagnosis.
Because it’s when these things fester that they become hard to treat. And that really is something to worry about.
I’d still end prescription fees
Dozens of you wrote to me querying comments I made on prescription charges in my last column.
I said some patients on multiple medications ended up paying through the nose, and many of you pointed out that pre-payment plans were an simple fix for this. It’s true.
Prescription Prepayment Certificates (PPCs) cost £30.25 for three months or £108.10 for a year and can offer big savings.
They are available via the NHS Business Authority website, nhsbsa.nhs.uk – where there’s also a list of pharmacies that sell them – or by phone, 0300 330 1341.
The problem is, too few people actually get one: a recent study by the Prescription Charges Coalition showed that 20 per cent of people with a long-term condition didn’t know they existed.
Some can’t afford lump sums or find they pre-pay and then never use their card as they have a condition that flares up then subsides, so they can’t tell when they’ll need medication.
We need an awareness campaign for PCCs, or better still: cut prescription charges altogether.
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