BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Patients with rare cancers often feel lonely and misunderstood. But could they find comfort in each other? Ivanhoe has the story of two young strangers who became instant friends when they found out they were battling the same disease and both were in their early twenties.
Morgan Ellison and Madison McDaniel never knew each other until they stepped into this room last year.
Morgan said, “She was the first young person I saw in the infusion clinic.”
Madison told Ivanhoe, “We were the youngest people by far.”
The two young women are fighting a rare form of ovarian cancer that only affects about 1,000 women in the U.S. each year. As luck would have it, they were diagnosed within weeks of each other and received treatment at the same hospital.
Morgan said, “It was so nice to have someone to talk to.”
Madison agreed, “It was nice having someone going through the same thing.”
The girls had to endure nine grueling weeks of chemo. They talked and texted about the painful side effects.
When cancer patients bond and have a support system, studies show it can boost their psychological well-being and help them feel less anxious, fearful and depressed. Rebecca Arend, MD, gynecologic oncologist at UAB, says she saw the friendship between Madison and Morgan do exactly that.
Doctor Arend said, “Having that experience together was really beautiful as a physician to be able to witness.”
Today is the very last day of chemo for both girls– and it’s emotional for everyone.
They get to ring a bell to celebrate their last treatment … and their cancer remission.
It’s a battle they fought together and won together.
Doctor Arend says that this type of ovarian cancer, known as “germ cell,” is almost never fatal, so both of the girls have a good prognosis. There are about 22-thousand cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed each year and about five percent of them will be a germ cell tumor.
Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Field Producer; Brogan Morris, Assistant Producer; and Tony Dastoli, Editor.
FIGHTING CANCER TOGETHER
BACKGROUND: Ovarian germ cell cancer is a type of cancer in which the malignant cells form in the egg cells of the ovary. The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female reproductive system located in the pelvis, with one on each side of the uterus. These small organs play a vital part in the female reproductive system because they make the eggs (pregnancy) and the female hormones (menstruation). When it comes to germ cell cancer, the tumor tends to form in the reproductive cells of the body. In addition, this form of cancer mainly affects adolescent girls or young women and in most cases it will only affect one of the two ovaries.
SYMPTOMS: When it comes to diagnosing ovarian germ cell cancer, it can oftentimes be very difficult to identify any of the symptoms early on. In the early stages of the cancer, there are rarely any signs, but tumors can sometimes be found during your annual gynecologic check-up. The symptoms include swollen abdomen (without any signs of weight gain in other parts of the body), irregular vaginal bleeding after menopause (when you’re not on your menstrual cycle), feeling of fullness and abdominal pain.
FORMS OF DIAGNOSIS:
- Pelvic exam: A full examination of the female reproductive system which includes the vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, uterus, ovaries, and rectum. The doctor or nurse may also insert one or two lubricated, gloved fingers in the woman’s vagina while the other hand presses on the lower abdomen to feel the shape and position of the uterus and ovaries.
- Laparotomy: A surgical procedure performed on the abdominal wall to check for any signs of irregular abdominal activity.
- CAT scan: An x-ray procedure in which detailed pictures of different areas inside the body are taken to help detect any signs of disease.
- Serum tumor marker test: A procedural blood test used to measure the amount of certain substances that are released into the bloodstream by organs, tissues, or tumor cells. These “certain substances” are linked to a specific type of cancer and ultimately these are called tumor markers.
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