Cervical cancer kills two women a day in the UK but is easily preventable.
This week is cervical cancer prevention week, a cause which drives awareness around a discussion many ignore.
“I was literally 19 and i could have cancer.”
Francesca Corbridge, 21
Francesca Corbridge, 21, had a scare as a late teenager after being told cervical cancer could be the cause of her symptoms.
When the Nottingham student started to get symptoms such as stomach pain, abnormal periods and pain during sex, she knew she needed to be checked.
Receiving an appointment quickly, she soon discovered that it could be endometriosis.
This condition is where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Endometriosis and cervical cancer do have very similar symptoms which can increase wait times in how long it takes to get diagnosed.
Cervical cancer develops slowly, it takes years or even decades for the abnormal changes in the cervix to become cancer cells.
However a couple days later, her doctor said cervical cancer was on the cards.
She said: “I was literally 19 and I could have cancer.
“My mum was frantic from the news but because I’m so young, I honestly felt numb.” explained Francesca.
“I had every test under the sun which is interesting because I don’t really know anything about it.”
Fortunately all tests came back normal and Francesca was thankful that she could access the test so young to know all was well.
As Francesca was only 19 at the time, it meant she was under the screening age which is 25.
As part of the screening programme, all of those eligible will receive a letter in the post six months before their 25th birthday.
Pap Smear tests are available for those between the ages of 25 and 64 – Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is one organisation campaigning for awareness.
‘Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust’ was formed by James Maxwell in memory of his wife Jo who died from cervical cancer in 1999, at the age of 40.
Over the past 20 years, the trust and its supporters have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of its causes and how to prevent it.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common cause which can lead to cervical cancer.
However, most schools and private healthcare now offer a HPV vaccine which started in 2008 and lasts at least 10 years.
People usually get HPV through skin-to-skin contact, such as sex, to prevent this safe sex should be performed.
According to research from Jo’s cervical cancer trust, the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity, found that only 17 per cent of healthcare professionals think enough is currently being done to eliminate cervical cancer in the UK.
Jade Goody, the late British TV personality who appeared on Big Brother passed away in 2009 of cervical cancer at the age of 27.
Due to the media coverage on Goody, there was a 70 per cent increased attendance to get checked from March 2009.
There has been a national debate for decades about the need to decrease the age of testing to 21.
Going into your 20s and adulthood, there are many things to think about but having a pap smear shouldn’t be ignored.
You always need to check because it’s better to be safe than sorry.
By Rebecca Capp and Scarlett Acres.
Symptoms to look for:
- Unusual vaginal bleeding – including or during sex, between periods, after menopause or having heavier periods that usual
- Changes to vaginal discharge
- Pain during sex
- Pain in lower back, between hip bones (pelvis) or lower tummy
However if you have fibrosis or endometriosis, these symptoms could also occur.
- Cervical screenings- helps find and treat any changes in the cells of the cervix before they turn into cancer
- HPV vaccination- for children aged 12 to 13
- Using condoms- can lower your chances of HPV but due to not covering all the skin, you are not fully protected
- Quitting smoking- it weakens your immune system and the chemicals in cigarettes can cause cervical cancer
- Eating a balanced diet to support your immune system
Visit Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust for more information.