Women's experiences with ovarian cancer: reflections on being diagnosed

Can Oncol Nurs J. 2002 Summer;12(3):152-68. doi: 10.5737/1181912x123152159.
[Article in English, French]


The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the perspectives of women living with ovarian cancer about their experiences with diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care. A convenience sample of 18 women was interviewed using an open-ended interview guide. This paper will focus on their perspectives during the peri-diagnostic period. Most of the women in this study experienced changes in their bodies--bloating, weight gain around their middles, indigestion, bowel changes, and abdominal pain. The vagueness of the symptoms and lack of awareness by the women and, in the women's opinion, health care professionals caused delays in diagnosis and initial investigations of other body systems. The symptoms were often dismissed by the women as being related to normal body changes such as childbirth, menopause, or stress responses. It was often not until the women's symptoms became severe or included pain that referrals were made to relevant specialists. At this point, many of the women were physically and emotionally spent, leaving them vulnerable and in a weakened state for confronting the diagnosis and coping with the difficult course of treatment. Clearly, the subtle, nebulous nature of the symptoms confounded the diagnosis of ovarian cancer for these women, resulting in patient delays and physician delays.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Awareness
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / psychology*