Dr Lauren Juyia
Photo by Survivornet

Doctor Diagnoses Her Own Stage 4 Colon Cancer: Shares Crucial Warning Signs

Dr. Lauren Juyia, a Florida-based gynecologist, discovered her own stage 4 colon cancer at age 37, a diagnosis that came about through her awareness of subtle but serious symptoms. She is now committed to raising awareness about these early signs to help others identify the disease sooner.

In August 2022, Dr. Juyia noticed she was experiencing unusual fatigue, which she initially dismissed as a typical life stressor. However, it was the accompanying sense of “pelvic heaviness” that triggered her professional instincts. This sensation intensified to the point where she felt a “pelvic mass,” prompting her to undergo an ultrasound. The results revealed significantly enlarged masses near her ovary.

“Having a background in obstetrics, we describe size by weeks of pregnancy and so I was like, ‘Oh my god, I have a 16-week-size mass,'” Dr. Juyia told Good Morning America. Her medical experience led her to suspect the worst, though she initially thought it might be ovarian cancer due to the location of the tumors.

By September 2022, Dr. Juyia was in surgery to remove the masses that had aggressively spread to various organs including her ovaries, uterus, and appendix. Despite the rapid growth of the tumors, her symptoms remained mild; the predominant signs were pelvic heaviness and persistent fatigue.

“I was a little tired in the afternoon for about two months previous to this and as a mum with two little kids – I had been recently nursing them, they were still waking up in the night, I work full time – I didn’t think anything of saying, ‘Oh, I think I need a tea in the afternoon,'” she explained. This mild symptomatology is particularly deceptive, potentially leading younger individuals to overlook early warning signs.

After her surgeries and six months of chemotherapy, during which she continued working — finding solace and distraction in her professional duties — Dr. Juyia was declared free of active disease in March of the previous year. She stresses the importance of being vigilant about body changes and symptoms like fatigue and pelvic heaviness, particularly in younger populations who are below the typical screening age.

In the UK, bowel cancer screening is generally available for individuals aged 60 to 74, with plans to lower this to 50. In the US, the screening age starts at 45. Dr. Juyia urges those younger than the screening threshold to pay close attention to their bodies. “People that are younger than the screening age should still be paying attention to our symptoms because we’re not eligible for screening usually,” she said, emphasizing the importance of not dismissing potential warning signs just because one is young and seemingly healthy.

Dr. Juyia’s personal battle and professional perspective highlight a critical message: awareness and early detection can be life-saving, even when symptoms seem mild or commonplace.

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