The Importance of Early Detection in Ovarian Cancer: Linda’s Story

Recent statistics from OCRA (The Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance) reveal that ovarian cancer ranks as the eleventh most common cancer and the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. Linda, a survivor of ovarian cancer, is dedicated to using her experience to raise awareness and educate others about identifying the sometimes-subtle symptoms and risk factors that could lead to early diagnosis. 

Prior to her diagnosis, Linda characterized her health as excellent. She had been a physically active woman for the last fifty years, eating a healthy diet and maintaining the same weight she had in high school. Her only family history of cancer was a maternal grandmother who had stomach cancer in her sixties; however, Linda is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, a factor that can increase risk of ovarian cancer. 

“Vaginal bleeding was my only symptom,” Linda recalled. This alarming sign led her to contact her gynecologist, who promptly ordered a vaginal ultrasound, which revealed a large ovarian tumor. Based on her oncologist’s recommendations, Linda decided to undergo a total hysterectomy. The pathology report indicated a highly aggressive tumor, necessitating chemotherapy. 

“It was shocking for me to get this diagnosis, particularly since I led such a healthy life for decades,” Linda reflected. Considering the limitations in ovarian cancer screening and detection, she considers herself fortunate to have received an early diagnosis and is now cancer-free. 

For Linda, facing a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and undergoing chemotherapy was a difficult journey filled with complex emotions. “I found out that I could embrace both happiness and sadness independently and simultaneously,” she shared. Linda discovered that even while enduring adversity, which included two additional chemotherapy treatments and a hospitalization for bilateral pulmonary blood clots, she maintained humor. “Sharing laughter with my friends and family created a sense of connection and support for me during that difficult time.” 

Initially, Linda feared the unknown. “Not knowing how I would respond to treatment, along with how I would proceed after treatment was completed, was daunting,” she admitted. She had sad days when she had no appetite or energy to even go for a walk. Her ability to find moments of happiness and acceptance gave her the strength and resilience she needed to face the journey ahead. She found it helpful to make future plans, whether it was having a friend over for coffee, going out to lunch, or planning a weekend trip to celebrate her completion of chemotherapy. 

Discussions related to ovarian cancer sometimes involve sensitive topics, which contributes to a certain level of discomfort or taboo surrounding the subject for both patients and their healthcare providers. “My hope for increased public awareness, open conversations, and improved efforts in early detection and research for ovarian cancer is crucial,” Linda said. She notes that the progress made in breast cancer awareness, early detection, and treatment options has been significant, and there’s great potential for similar advancements in ovarian cancer diagnoses.  

“If there is one thing I would ask, it is that each of you who reads this article takes away from my experience is an understanding of the symptoms and risk factors associated with ovarian cancer, coupled with undergoing annual gynecological check-ups,” Linda advises. She believes this will lead to diagnoses at earlier, more treatable stages. 

Looking ahead, Linda will continue to advocate for early detection and research that will enhance screening methods and develop more effective treatments to minimize the impact of ovarian cancer. 



Ovarian Cancer Research Association Foundation 

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition  

The National Cancer Institute 

The Clearity Foundation 

Nancy’s List  

The Society of Gynecologic Oncology 

Center for Advancement of Cancer Education