BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s been nearly a year to the day since doctors told Ann Watts she had cancer.
“I thought that was a death sentence. It’s cancer, you’re going to die,” said Watts.
However, because Watts paid attention to unusual changes in her body, her diagnosis was far from the end. She says it all started with one sudden symptom.
“I woke up one morning and had unusual bleeding and I know my body very well, so I knew I needed to get to my doctor,” said Watts.
Tests revealed she had a form of GYN cancer, which is a category that includes any cancer of the female genital track, like ovarian and cervical cancers. Watts underwent an aggressive treatment, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. She also endured nearly every side effect in the book, but ten months later, she was cancer-free.
Dr. Anthony Evans, a gynecological oncologist with Woman’s Hospital, says regular screenings and early detection are key to treating and curing cancer. He believes tools like the HPV vaccine, which is now recommended for all boys and girls starting at age 11, may even eliminate cervical cancer in the future.
Unfortunately, many symptoms associated with GYN cancer, like bloating or changes in bathroom habits, are easy to overlook or blame on other factors.
“What I usually tell people, for things that kind of come and go like we all have, that I wouldn’t pay as much attention to that. I’d be more worried about things that come and stay,” said Evans.
That’s the attitude Watts has and believes every woman should embrace.
“Never assume that things are different in your body are nothing,” said Watts. “Had I not gone to the doctor when I did, my cancer that was about one centimeter, the size of the end of your little finger, could have grown to golf ball size and you and I would not be having this conversation.”
According to Woman’s, nearly 90,000 women will be diagnosed with a form of GYN cancer every year. September is GYN Cancer Awareness Month. In celebration of that, Woman’s is offering a new way to support those patients dealing with GYN or breast cancer. Anyone can visit breastandgyncancer.org/hope to send a free, personalized message to a cancer patient. Hope Notes will then be printed and hand-delivered to patients when they arrive for treatment.