A teenage model with one of the “worst cases” of ovarian cancer is now living cancer-free.
Just one year ago, 16-year-old Peyton Linafelter of Littleton, Colo., suddenly started feeling sick during a winter vacation in Barbados. “I couldn’t keep anything down,” she told Fox News. “My stomach was a little expanded. But I just thought I was eating a lot of carbs. I didn’t think anything of it … but each week, my stomach got bigger and bigger. By the time it was April, I looked like I was five months pregnant. My lower back hurt a lot, and my abdomen was in pain.”
Although Linafelter was diagnosed with ovarian cysts, on her 16th birthday the teen learned she had Stage 4 ovarian cancer, which had spread to her stomach and lungs.
Yahoo Beauty could not reach Linafelter’s physician, Saketh Guntupalli, MD, at the University of Colorado Hospital for comment; however, according to Fox News, Guntupalli believes she’s the youngest woman in the U.S. to develop the most common type of ovarian cancer and “one of the worst cases he’s ever seen.”
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According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is responsible for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. What makes Linafelter’s case so unusual is her young age — ovarian cancer commonly occurs in older women, with 50 percent of cases involving women 63 years or older.
“I was in complete shock,” Linafelter told Fox News. “I was in disbelief. I had thought they were in the wrong room or it was a mistake.”
She added, “I think at the time, the most devastating part was that I was going to lose my hair. That was probably the most of the shock factor. I wasn’t really told much, other than the basics, like, ‘We’re going to do chemo for a couple of rounds. Then we’re going to do surgery and then chemo afterwards.’ I was completely fine with that.”
Linafelter was also worried about her blossoming modeling career — the teen had recently been scouted by Next Management, which also reps model Kate Upton, while attending a Taylor Swift concert. However, the agency worked around Linafelter’s medical appointments.
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Fortunately, in December Linafelter was declared cancer-free, and she’s focused on her “new normal” life, telling Fox News: “I’m hanging out with friends. … I’m working out a lot, so I can have a better body than ever before.”
According to Jamie Bakkum Gamez, MD, an ovarian cancer specialist at the Mayo Clinic (who didn’t treat Linafelter), while the teen’s diagnosis is rare for her age, women should be on the lookout for four subtle but important signs of ovarian cancer.
“We advise women to note any bloating,” she tells Yahoo Beauty. “Not bloating that comes and goes depending on what you ate that day, but rather persistent or worsening bloating.”
Also, watch for any persistent changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea, along with changes in urinary frequency. “For example, if you have to urinate more than usual or experience pain with urination,” Bakkum Gamez says. “And finally, if you’re hungry but feel full after a few bites of food, it could mean there is something pressing on your stomach, such as fluid or a tumor.”
Women with ovarian cancer don’t always experience all of these signs, and unfortunately there is no screening test for this disease. “I would say go to your doctor for anything and if you think anything is wrong,” Linafelter told Fox News. “Even if you think it’s something very simple, there could be long-term effects. Look after your health, and don’t just push it aside.”
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