Mum mistaken for pregnant after 7.5kg mass 'invaded body like alien'

Karen Lurati was diagnosed with liposarcoma, a 'rare' cancer which many doctors don't ever come across in their careers.

Melbourne woman Karen Lurati smiles in front of the ocean (left) and smiles with her two teenage daughters (right).
Melbourne mum Karen Lurati was mistaken for pregnant before she was diagnosed with a 'rare' sarcoma. Source: Supplied

An Aussie mum is urging others to keep an eye out for easily missed cancer symptoms after she dismissed her own as signs of menopause, while others around her simply assumed she was pregnant.

Karen Lurati was in her 40s when she first started to notice changes in her body and for years put it down to menopause, believing she was simply transitioning into a different stage of life.

"For me, it just looked like weight gain. I was also getting hot flushes and had quite a lot of fatigue which all looked very menopausal," the Melbourne woman told Yahoo News.

It was only when people around her started to question whether she was pregnant and she began to feel a constant "push down feeling" in her body, similar to what she felt during childbirth, that she went to the doctor.

Karen was diagnosed with liposarcoma, a type of cancer that develops in the fatty tissue, and her doctor said it had likely been "growing for 10 years" before they caught it.

"It was slow growing... the mass was more like a jelly rather than a solid, hard tumour. It basically found space within my abdominal cavity between all my organs and then grew," she said. "It had strangled my kidney and part of my bowel."

The mum-of-two smiles with her two daughters at one's 21st (left) and Karen takes a selfie wearing sunglasses (right).
The mum-of-two now has a scar from 'sternum to pubic bone' after surgery to remove the cancer. Source: Supplied

She was immediately treated with radiation for eight weeks to "encase" the mass and then got surgery to "pull out" it out in one go, with Karen saying it was "like an alien invading my body".

"It was a seven-and-a-half kilo tumour once it was removed, or just like two babies... no wonder people thought I was pregnant," she said. "I now have a big scar from my sternum to my pubic bone, they cut through my core."

While going through the treatment, Karen was told "most GPs never see a sarcoma in the duration of their time working" and are often missed in patients because they are so "rare".

Thankfully the treatment was successful and Karen, now 55, is six years cancer-free but she continues to raise the alarm on symptoms, especially during Sarcoma Awareness Month this July, in the hope sarcomas can be detected quicker and more treatment will be made available for those in the future.

"Only about five people a year get this in Australia and it's very, very rare. There's not been a lot of research either... it's nothing like the research around breast or bowel or prostate cancer, we need to do more," she said.

Sarcomas make up only one per cent of all adult cancers, but long-term survival rates are poor, accounting for 42 per cent of all cancer deaths in the country.

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