From birth control changes to stress, there are several reasons why you might miss a period. While many of these reasons are relatively benign, Amy Allen, a woman from the UK, is warning others that several missed periods could be the sign of something much more dangerous.
"My periods had started at about 14, but after a few years they gave me very severe lower back pain and I developed bad facial hair," Allen told Metro. "Then they stopped not long after I turned 18."
After Allen stopped getting her period for six months and began to develop facial hair at the age of 18, doctors initially suspected she had polycystic ovary syndrome — which wasn't completely off-base, considering that both of those symptoms are common for people who suffer from PCOS.
However, shortly after starting her first year of a psychology degree at York St John’s University, Allen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after doctors found a tumour.
"I was the first person in living memory in Yorkshire to be diagnosed with that type of ovarian tumour, a Sertoli-Leydig sex cord tumour," she told Huffington Post UK. "The doctors and nurses were so nice. They explained everything and we had a laugh about the rarity and excitement of the type of tumour — the first one to be diagnosed in Yorkshire."
“If I hadn’t laughed I would have cried."
A Sertoli-Leydig sex cord tumour is extremely rare — according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, sex cord-stromal tumours account for about 1% of all ovarian cancers. The tumours make an overabundance of oestrogen, in turn often causing abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Since the cancer was confined to her ovary and hadn't spread, Allen didn't have to undergo chemotherapy and was able to have surgery to remove the tumour. Allen also had her left ovary removed, but kept her right one in the event that she decides to have children in the future.
"It took a while for the news of what was wrong with me to sink in," she told Metro. "When it did, I realised I had some important decisions to make — decisions that had to be mine and mine alone. I decided to get my ovary removed in case there was any trace of cancer left. It was the right decision, too, as there was."
"Thankfully everything else came back clear and I’m still in remission."
Getting cancer at such a young age compelled Allen to speak out about her experience, to make sure that other young people know they aren't immune to serious illness.
"My advice, particularly to younger people, is, 'Don’t ignore it if you feel that something is serious and don’t allow yourself to be fobbed off.'" she told HuffPo UK.