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Thursday, February 22, 2024

How doctors mistook a woman’s cancer symptoms for heavy periods

A mother who was living with an undiagnosed terminal cancer is urging women to seek further investigation if they have health concerns.

Kelly Pendry, 42, from Ewloe, North Wales, was diagnosed with uterine leiomyosarcoma in 2021.

According to experts, uterine leiomyosarcoma (LMS; also known as uterine cancer) is a rare uterine malignancy that arises from the smooth muscle of the uterine wall.

Compared with other types of uterine cancers, LMS is an aggressive tumor associated with a high risk of recurrence and death, regardless of stage at presentation.

Researchers at Yale added that about two-thirds (66%) of women who are diagnosed with early-stage leiomyosarcoma survive five years or longer.

The prognosis worsens if the cancer has spread beyond the uterus, declining to a five-year survival rate of 13 to 34%.

In Kelly Pendry’s case, her initial symptoms of “heavy, prolonged periods” and a “lot of pain” began in 2016, reports BBC.

According to the bone and soft tissue cancer charity, Sarcoma UK, leiomyosarcoma develops in the smooth muscle cells, which are sometimes called involuntary muscles because they cause the organs to contract without our control.

Involuntary muscles are most commonly found in the limbs, the abdomen, the uterus, and the retroperitoneum (which is found deep in the abdomen and pelvis, behind the abdominal lining).

Uterine cancer symptoms

Common symptoms include a lump or swelling in the soft tissue under the skin. For uterine leiomyosarcoma, symptoms may include vaginal bleeding post-menopause, vaginal bleeding between periods, unusual vaginal bleeding and pain around the pelvis or stomach.

The mother-of-two said that she was told by a doctor that her body was experiencing side effects post-pregnancy. Elsewhere, she was advised to consider different contraception and was prescribed antidepressants.

“I felt like I was a drama queen,” she told the news outlet. “I felt like I was overthinking it, I felt like ‘is this in my head a bit, is this stupid?’”

Kelly was diagnosed with benign fibroids in November 2020, but the pandemic delayed her surgery.

By June 2021, Kelly said she was bleeding every day and “looked nine months pregnant”. It was around this time that a doctor mentioned the possibility of a sarcoma (the general term for a broad group of cancers that begin in the bones and in the connective tissues).

After a lung biopsy, Kelly was diagnosed with stage four and terminal cancer.

“I was told by a nurse not to make plans for Christmas,” she told the news outlet.

She underwent six rounds of chemotherapy to maximise the time she has to live. One year on from the treatment, Kelly experiences side effects, including tiredness, hot flushes, aches and pains.

At present, her husband is raising money for Kelly to get access to treatment in the US, which they believe could extend the time she has to live.

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