When three-time Olympic hurdler Jana Pittman started getting pelvic problems in 2014, she put off seeing her GP — until she began undergoing IVF a year later.
The decision to try having a baby saved her life when doctors discovered a precancerous condition.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Jana Pittman welcomes twins Willow and Quinlan.
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The mother-of-six, who is now a doctor at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney, has survived two cancer scares.
Speaking to 7Life, Dr. Pittman that women are more open about their breasts “and other private things” to save their lives.
September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month, and Dr. Pittman is an ambassador for the Australia New Zealand Gynecological Oncology Group (ANZGOG).
She says women should get regular screening for gynecological cancers, some of which are silent killers.
The two-time world hurdles champion said when she first became scared of cancer she “felt like an idiot” because she hadn’t had a cervical cancer screen in nine years.
The second time, she was lucky that she had been tested and that doctors caught the abnormality before it could potentially lead to cancer.
“A year later it might have been too late,” she said, adding the experience was “scary” and made her realize the importance of taking care of her own health to be there for her children .
“So many women could be in the same situation and it’s a very scary thought that you could be leaving a child or children without their mother if the cancer isn’t caught in time.”
dr Pittman said the first cancer “scared the shit out of me.”
“The biopsy showed I had high-grade dysplasia, and even though I’m a doctor, my mind raced to think maybe it’s more than what if it’s already cancer,” she said.
“Luckily that wasn’t the case and 12 months later I received my screening results which said the surgery had worked and I no longer have any abnormal cells.
“Although this has happened to me twice now, I’m one of the lucky ones. I got it in time.
“But others lose their lives to cervical cancer. Please have yourself examined.”
dr Pittman says she teaches her children, especially her older daughters, that it’s okay for women to talk about their health — even “taboo” topics.
“Women need to be able to talk about their breasts and vaginas and menstrual cycles and any other weird symptoms they might be experiencing,” said Dr. Pittman.
“It’s just a body – but it’s your body and you have to take care of it and protect it.
“No one likes cervical screening, but it’s critical that we do it.”
This year, nearly 7,000 Australian and 1,000 New Zealand women will be diagnosed with one of seven gynecological cancers.
They are ovarian (fallopian tube), cervical, uterine (endometrium), vagina, vulva, and two rarer types of placental cancer.
That’s 18 Aussie females and 3 Kiwi females every day.
Almost half of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will not survive five years.
Meanwhile, the rate of endometrial cancer, which can be a very aggressive form of cancer, has risen by 55 percent in Australia and New Zealand over the past 20 years.
Survival depends on early detection and ongoing research and clinical trials to find better treatments and outcomes.
symptoms of cancer
dr Pittman says women need to be aware of their bodies and the possible symptoms of gynecologic cancer — which can easily be dismissed as something else.
And she says they must seek medical advice immediately.
“I’d rather see a patient regularly and be able to tell her yes, this is menopause or something else than that it’s too late for her to see a doctor,” said Dr. Pittman.
“A lot of screenings have been missed during COVID and while many women are fortunate to have it on their to-do list, it needs to be pushed higher.
“I’ve had women who come into clinics with symptoms that in some cases have been going on for years, but they haven’t seen screening or anyone because ‘it’s a little bit private’.
“You have to get out of your comfort zone.
“I had a patient who had a tiny lump in her breast but she was too busy to get it checked.
“Then it became a pimple that got worse and she found it too embarrassing to see anyone.
“When she went to the doctor it was stage four cancer.
“Before she died, she gave me permission to share her story in hopes that it would save others.
“Gynecologic cancers are often asymptomatic in the early stages, so if you have symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor. Now.”
The Story of Laura Platt
Laura Platt, who on her 30th birthday decided that she should start regular health checks, also shares her story for Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month.
The young woman, a netball player with a strong interest in CrossFit, was devastated when she was diagnosed with stage 1B cervical cancer.
Platt underwent two surgeries and was looking forward to the all-clear.
But five months later, her gynecologist noticed that her cervix still didn’t look right.
The cancer had returned – this time it was stage 4.
“The doctor told me it had spread to the surrounding lymph nodes and into my lungs,” she said, adding that her oncologist told her the devastating news that she had 18 months to live.
Platt recalls that she had no real symptoms other than some lymph nodes that swelled in her groin.
When she was told her situation was dangerous, she prepared to start chemotherapy and immunotherapy immediately.
Preserving her fertility was her other great concern.
“As it turns out, I didn’t have time to try methods of freezing my eggs,” she said.
“I’m glad I started treatment immediately, even though it was at the expense of my ability to have children.”
Platt was treated with an immunotherapy drug previously used only for other types of cancer.
Since it wasn’t used for cervical cancer, it wasn’t available on the PBS, so it had to be self-funded.
Friends set up a Go-Fund Me page and raised $60,000 to ensure Platt had access to the drug.
After everything Platt has been through, she believes positivity is key.
“Trying to shed light into what seems like a dark time is what keeps you going,” she said.
ANZGOG chair and clinical researcher Professor Clare Scott says survival rates will not improve without funding for innovative trials of new therapies.
“Until we can match more cancers to targeted therapies, we’re still behind the ball,” Prof. Scott said.
“Trying to tailor treatment to more women’s gynecologic cancers will give more women the chance to experience meaningful treatment responses, with longer control of their cancer.”
“We need more funding to scale up our current research so we can discover more, faster.”
To donate much-needed funds to women’s cancer research, go to womencan.org.au.
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https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/olympian-turned-doctor-jana-pittman-shares-the-warning-signs-after-shock-diagnosis-c-8320673 Olympian and doctor Jana Pittman shares warning signs after shock diagnosis