This month we’re recalling former U.S. Olympians who were challenged by cancer. One such Olympian is Shannon Miller, who competed as a gymnast in two Summer Games: Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996. She was one of the “Magnificent Seven” and is the most decorated American gymnast in history.
Miller was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in February of 2011 after physicians discovered a cyst on her ovary during a routine gynecological exam. Miller underwent surgery to remove her left ovary and had nine weeks of chemotherapy treatment.
Last June, Miller and her husband welcomed a healthy baby girl, named Sterling. This achievement rivals her Olympic performance, especially because Miller is a cancer survivor.
One concern facing women with ovarian cancer is infertility post-treatment. While Miller already had a son, Rocco, she had considered having other children. In a People magazine interview she said, “Instead of calling my parents to tell them they had another grandchild on the way, I was calling to tell them I may have cancer. My world stopped.”
Now, Miller recognizes motherhood as her biggest achievement. “I've been blessed to have the opportunity to do some amazing things in my life, but being a mom is second to none,” she said.
Fertility and cancer
For many women with ovarian cancer, fertility may not be possible due to treatment. In cases like Miller’s, the cancer was only in one ovary, still allowing her to reproduce. However, if you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and fertility is an important issue, there are options for preserving fertility.
In 2013, 450 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Age, obesity, reproductive history, birth control, gynecological surgery, fertility drugs and family history can all be risk factors for ovarian cancer. Symptoms often include discomfort in the lower abdomen, weight loss, abnormal bowel movement or urination, vaginal bleeding, or shortness of breath. But knowing the risk factors and symptoms can help prevent ovarian cancer. If you think you may be at risk or are experiencing any of the symptoms above, contact your OB/GYN.
Ask an expert
For more information early detection and treatment of female cancers call 800-777-7775 or ask Dr. Wafic ElMasri, gynecologic cancer expert.