How a 13-Pound Ovary Tumor Was Misdiagnosed and Why You Need to Self-advocate Your Health

Now, she's urging others to advocate for themselves and their bodies to get the care they need.

Ovarian cysts are most often harmless, but they are quite common. They may go hidden because they don't cause a lot of symptoms. However, if you are experiencing pelvic pain—or have questions about your health—talk to your gynecologist or primary care physician and get a vaginal ultrasound to make sure you're in the clear.

Blogger Chanté Burkett regularly shares posts on Instagram about approachable fashion looks, but she went viral for something completely unrelated. Burkett revealed that she had what she called an ovarian cyst removed—and it weighed 13 pounds.

The 33-year-old shared in her post that she first developed "severe pelvic pain," vomiting, and a "semi-hard stomach" in December 2020. At first, she pushed aside her symptoms thinking she had just eaten something bad. What happened next was a serious health journey that lasted for more than six months.

Courtesy of Chante Burkett / @chanteburkett

Ovarian Cyst Undiagnosed by Her Doctor

Burkett tells Health that she saw her doctor several times about the pain, but felt she was repeatedly brushed off. "I complained to my primary care provider about the pain I was having, and they blamed my weight," she says. "The second time, they said that maybe I was gassy or bloated, and they recommended that I take some medicine for that."

But Burkett says she knew this was more than gas. "I was working out and I was losing weight, but I noticed that my stomach wasn't going down," she says. "It was getting round like a pregnant person."

Burkett says that by her third visit, her doctor simply said that they didn't know what was behind her pain. "I finally said, 'I don't feel comfortable with you guys anymore,'" she says, noting that she went right to an urgent care center after that visit. "They ran a CT scan immediately, and that's when they found a mass," she says. Worth noting: Burkett's primary care doctor hadn't run any tests on her.

Scary Due To Family History of Cancer

Burkett was referred to her ob/gyn, who told her he suspected she had a tumor. "I already lost my mom to cancer, so it was a really scary experience," she says. Burkett was sent for more testing.

She scheduled an appointment with a specialist but, two days before she was supposed to see the doctor, she says more pain "came over my body, where I couldn't walk anymore." Burkett went to the ER. There, doctors said she needed to have the mass removed immediately.

Burkett was sent into surgery, where she had the tumor removed, along with her fallopian tube and right ovary. The 13-pound mass measured 30 centimeters across—about the size of a watermelon, she says—and it had caused her right ovary to twist (aka an ovarian torsion). Testing later revealed that she had a mucinous cystadenoma—a type of non-cancerous cystic tumor that forms on the ovaries and tends to grow bigger than other masses.

Burkett says that recovery was "pretty good" for her. She had surgery and came home three days later, and a week post-op she was up and walking again. "Right now, I feel OK," she says.

Be Your Self-advocate for Healthcare

Burkett says she hopes other women can learn from her story. "This can happen to anyone—point blank," she says. That's why, she says, it's important to make sure your doctor hears your concerns and orders testing when they don't have the answers. "My tumor obviously stayed and grew, and it could have been detected earlier," she says.

Burkett also stresses the importance of finding good care, and speaking up when you don't think you're getting it. "Advocate for yourself," she says. "And if you don't feel like your doctor is listening to you, go elsewhere."

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