Wanda Wooten of Wake Forest always considered herself to be healthy until the start of 2005. In February, she noticed a bloated feeling in her belly. Her clothes did not fit right.
"I felt like I was getting fat. That's really what I thought. I was just putting on weight," Wooten said.
Wooten went to her doctor for tests.
"He said that they had seen a lot of shadow in my abdomen on the X-ray," she said.
Wooten was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer. The peritoneum is in the lining of the abdomen, part of the tissues that hold the organs in place. Other symptoms may include weight loss, despite bloating or a mass felt in the abdomen. There may be abdominal pain.
When cancer is detected, it's usually advanced. For many patients, it's too late for surgery.
"They decided that I was definitely a candidate for surgery -- to do a complete hysterectomy and try to get as much of the cancer as they possibly could," she said.
UNC oncologist Dr. Linda Van Le said surgery and chemotherapy may not be the end of the battle, which can be the hard part for many couples.
"When you're going through the chemo, you're doing something very positive to combat the illness. But once that's finished, it's wait and see, and I want to be doing something," said John Wooten, Wanda's husband.
"It may come back and then we'll have to give you a little chemotherapy. You'll do fine. It may come back again, but it just kind of comes and goes, comes and goes, and we call it a chronic disease," Van Le said.
Wooten credits going to her doctor early with questions about changes in her body that she said gave her a fighting chance.
"Most of all, if you've been diagnosed, don't give up hope," Wooten said.
According to health experts, peritoneal cancer and ovarian cancer are most common in post-menopausal women over 50 years of age. They are also both similar in symptoms and treatment.
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