Cervical cancer develops in a woman’s cervix, is often symptom-less in its early stages, and mainly affects people aged between 30 and 45. Almost all cervical cancer cases are linked to infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV), an extremely common virus that’s passed on through sexual contact.
As it’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, we’re doing our part to share information and stories to help raise awareness on cervical cancer prevention. It’s critically important to know how to read the signs and symptoms, and be aware of how you can help reduce the risk of cervical cancer in either yourself or your loved ones.
In this article you’ll find stories from our clients who developed cervical cancer, who have opened up about their experiences to help others. We’re also sharing the amazing work of charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust who work tirelessly to support those with the illness.
Sarah is a trainee midwife and mum to Meadow, 12, Phoebe, 11, and Joseph, seven, and now also an author after penning a book on her experience living with cervical cancer.
It came as a shock to both her and her family when she received her diagnosis in 2016 – after receiving routine screening less than three years before in 2013, where her results were reported as normal. It wasn’t until August 2019 that she was made aware that her 2013 results had been incorrectly reported – her results had actually been ‘borderline’, which means there were slight abnormalities. By this time, she’d been through a hysterectomy, had the cancer return in her bowel and then needed chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and a colostomy. Had her test results been correctly recorded, it’s likely she could have avoided all of this.
Sarah said: “Being diagnosed with cancer was devastating enough, but to then learn that it could have been avoided was difficult for me to accept. Thankfully, my family and friends have been incredibly supportive and helped out with things at home and looking after the children.
“While I cannot change what has happened to me, I acknowledge that mistakes happen and I’m grateful for the apology from the NHS. I do not bear a grudge and I admire the service that the NHS provides greatly.”
During her illness, she was constantly battling with the worry that her treatment wasn’t working, and even after getting the all clear she was anxious that the cancer would come back. She decided to get counselling, where she was advised to write everything down to help her cope.
Sarah said: “This led me to write my story about the cancer and make it something that others could relate to. I found the whole process very therapeutic.”
The book is called ‘The Spider in Mummy’s Tummy: My Family’s Cervical Cancer Journey.’, which is available to buy
Read more about Sarah’s experience
here. Amie’s Story
Amie, 50, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in April 2019. After a nine-month ordeal including a multitude of GP appointments and an ultrasound scan that went nowhere, she felt something was wrong, so took matters into her own hands and sought the opinion of a private doctor. A biopsy was taken which came back positive for cervical cancer.
Amie said: “I knew something serious was wrong, but whenever I attended a medical appointment, the doctors focused on perimenopause as the primary reason behind my symptoms.
"I was worried that they seemed to be ruling out other conditions too quickly. On a number of occasions, I was offered hormones and various drugs which would slow the bleeding. I was never offered a PAP smear. I was upset and angry at what had happened."
She began a course of 25 radiation treatments, including brachytherapy, which involves internal radiation sources placed close to the cancer to try to shrink the tumour. After a few months of treatment, her tumour was sufficiently removed, however the toxicity effects of her treatment are ongoing and affect her every day.
Elise Burvill, our expert solicitor who supported her through her experience, said: “Through our work we sadly see the impact that cervical cancer can have. Amie hopes that by sharing her story she can help others be aware of the symptoms and the need to take part in the screening programme. Early detection and treatment are key to beating cancer.”
Amie strongly believes that it’s really important for women to trust themselves and their bodies, and if you feel you aren’t getting the support you need, get a second opinion or even a third.
In a powerful statement that reflected her experience, she said: “Every woman needs to be informed, aware, and empowered around their own health.”
Read more about Amie’s experience
The leading cervical cancer charity
Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity, who work tirelessly to achieve their vision: a future where cervical cancer is a thing of the past.
Their mission sees them providing the highest quality information and support for anyone affected by cervical cell changes and cervical cancer, and campaigning for excellence in cervical cancer treatment and prevention.
The last year has been challenging for everyone in a variety of ways, but Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust stand by the fact that one thing has not changed – and that is the importance of cervical screening. They’re the best form of protection against cervical cancer, but they’ve become harder to attend due to the additional challenges coronavirus has caused.
The trust is campaigning to remind everyone that if you’ve been invited to a cervical screening appointment, it’s because your GP practice has taken measures to keep you safe at the surgery. Even though we’re in lockdown, you’re still allowed to go to your appointment.
To help spread the word, they’ve gone to social media with their #SmearForSmear campaign to get the conversation going about cervical screening. The campaign asks users to post a selfie with smeared lipstick or use the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust smeared lipstick Instagram filter to grab attention and raise awareness of the fact that smear tests aren't always easy, but they are really important.
To find out more about the amazing work the charity does, or to donate to their very worthy cause,
visit their website. Fight it with these five facts
There’s five really important take-home messages about cervical cancer.
An early sign of cervical cancer is unusual vaginal bleeding, often after sex or between periods
Cervical cancer mainly affects women aged between 30-45, but it can affect people of any age
Almost all cervical cancers are caused by a common sexually transmitted infection through HPV
Regular cervical screening is the best thing you can do to identify abnormal cell changes early on
The pandemic has resulted in some delays to regular screening, but it’s still important that you get screened. Ask your GP for more information.
Find out more about our expertise in supporting women and families affected by cervical cancer
on our dedicated cancer advice webpage. Alternatively to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs from 18-24 January and is organised by the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. For more information visit
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