Karen Flood of Folsom, Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with low-grade serous ovarian cancer in 2015 at the age of 34.
Doctors found a tumor during an emergency cesarean section and initially thought it was a cyst. An MRI technologist, Karen also had seen the tumor while testing an MRI scanner a year earlier, and also thought it was a cyst.
Eight days later, doctors told Karen that the pathology found low-grade serous ovarian cancer.
“I immediately thought that my daughter would grow up not knowing me,” she said. “Since I had just given birth, I had to wait seven weeks to have staging scans. I spent seven weeks in a postpartum panic.”
After a total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy with a chemo wash, the cancer was staged at 1B. Which meant the cancer was found in both ovaries but had not spread elsewhere. It is rare for ovarian cancer to be diagnosed this early.
Though Karen did not require any additional treatment, she experienced difficult symptoms from surgically induced menopause including weight gain, depression, anxiety and hair loss. Surgical menopause symptoms are often more severe than natural menopause but because low-grade serous ovarian cancer is hormone sensitive her doctors advised against hormone replacement therapy.
“I was fortunate to have given birth at Cooper, which has a partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center so I was treated there with such kindness and expertise,” she said. “I applied and I have now worked there for almost six years. I feel much closer to my patients now I know what it’s like to be on the table myself.”
Karen was watched closely for five years and remains cancer free to this day. “Most women with my cancer aren’t this lucky. Luck shouldn’t come into it. I’m hopeful that future research will improve outcomes for people with ovarian cancer.”