‘My womb cancer was mistaken for gluten intolerance – I want to improve the discussion about women’s health’ – i

Dafina Malovska was 35 when she started experiencing severe and persistent bloating four years ago, which she says her GP put down to gluten intolerance. When cutting out wheat made no difference, and a gastroenterologist’s tests found nothing wrong with her stomach, Dafina was simply advised to “eat Activia yoghurts” to beat the bloat.

“Every time I went back to see my GP, I could tell from her reaction that she thought I was a hypochondriac. She never actually touched my abdomen or examined me, not even once,” Dafina says. It wasn’t until she started bleeding between periods, four months later, that her GP referred her to a gynaecologist.

While still waiting for her NHS appointment to come through, Dafina – who has lived and worked in London for 14 years – flew to her native Macedonia for her sister’s birthday and consulted a gynaecologist privately there. “They did a thorough check-up, including a transvaginal ultrasound and pelvic examination, and discovered a 14 cm, 500 gm tumour in my uterus,” Dafina explains.

Four days later, an operation to remove the tumour revealed life-changing news: she had stage two womb cancer, which had spread to her ovaries. “I was devastated and shocked. Everything happened so quickly,” she recalls. “I was told I’d have to go back into surgery that evening for a total hysterectomy to remove my uterus and my ovaries in order to save my life.”

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