After celebrating Cervical Cancer Awareness week, HFC feel it is important to share the experience of a Cervical Cancer survivor and document the journey that continues long after the last cancer treatment (radiotherapy and chemotherapy).
Cancer really does change your life; there is a long lasting impact on yourself and your family. However, on a more positive note, it can also bring everyone together and help you appreciate just how special life is.
The current NHS age range for Cervical Smear tests is 25-64, we feel strongly that the NHS need to stop putting an age limit on smear tests as young girls are legally sexually active from age 16 years. Women should not be denied a smear test on age, as this in itself could be a death sentence to younger women. Any sexually active woman can carry the HPV virus.
In the UK approximately 9 women are diagnosed daily, with Cervical Cancer and higher incidence amongst 25-29 years of age.
In her early 20’s Cassie was diagnosed with cervical cell changes she received treatment for this and was regularly monitored.
10 years ago at the age of 50 Cassie was given the terrible news that she had an unusual cancer tumour in the layers between the anus and vagina , the tumour was a 7cm by 2cm long , cigar shaped . Symptoms presented as mainly severe lower back pain, feeling generally unwell and fatigued.
The treatment was the most difficult I have ever watched someone go through, especially a close friend. Cassie told me the radiotherapy was very uncomfortable, and the damage to the soft tissue in and around the vagina ( vaginal wall ) was pretty severe. Cassie had to use clinical dilators which she needed to insert daily, into her vagina, to keep her vagina open as the scar tissue wanted to heal over the scar tissue. Cassie naturally had concerns about how the treatment would effect her sex life at a later stage. Fortunately Cassie was able to have the Chemo treatment at home through a pic line in her arm . This treatment was also severe , with mouth ulcers ,stomach cramps and resulted in Cassie ,losing her curly mane of red hair . I have never met anyone who stayed as positive as Cassie , she really was amazing and kept us all mesmerised by her will to beat this and thankfully she has . Cassie features on our videos and is an absolute inspiration and makes us all realise that life really does go on and mind over matter is so very important. We watched and cared for on the days Cassie had no energy to eat, making soups and food that she could manage due to mouth ulcers.
Having the comfort of her own home and her surroundings , I am sure had a massive impact on her road to recovery. Cassie knew that sleeping was all she really wanted to do to enable her body to repair..
Cassie’s hair has now grown back blonder in a trendier shorter style which she has kept and really suits her. Her mantra is definitely exercise and wellbeing , trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and enjoying every precious moment that there is with the ones she loves.
Cassie realizes how important it is to educate her daughters and granddaughters on how important it is to know and tell others of the HPV virus that she knows she carries. HPV injections are now given at school and a massive breakthrough in wiping this awful disease out.
Like most treatments on the NHS costs are a concern, there are blood tests available to identify the HPV virus but these are only available for women identified as being possible carriers of the HPV virus.
Cassies After Effects
Cassie’s vaginal walls are now too narrow to enable a smear test as the vagina was too damaged and so her vagina closed after a long battle to trying to keep it open with dilators , so the after effects for Cassie are still going on today. Cassie has no Cervix and therefore to have a smear test , this means Cassie has to have a procedure -EUA and a Hegar that means having general anaesthetic to retrieve the cells from the Cervix area and test for any further cell changes.
Cassie has had pioneering stem cell injections of her own fat, retrieved and spun from her own fat tissue, then injected into her vaginal wall area to help promote , new healthy tissue to try and rejuvenate the walls of the vagina. This treatment can also help with the dryness and scar tissue. These are new treatments and still in their trial stages, some work better than others and we know that every woman’s recovery is unique to her.
Cassie maintains a high level of fitness and truly believes that being mobile and eating a balanced diet really helps her to stay as fit and cancer free as possible . Cassie maintains a positive mental attitude is truly an inspiration to us all on how we should enjoy our lives as much as possible. This proves even after treatment there are still battles to be won and that every day truly counts.
Cervical Cancer: Symptoms and Signs
Cervical cancer is a cancer arising from the cervix. It is due to the abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Early on, typically no symptoms are seen. Later symptoms may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain or pain during sexual intercourse.
- Blood spots or light bleeding between or following periods.
- Menstrual bleeding that is longer and heavier than usual.
- Bleeding after intercourse, douching, or a pelvic examination.
- Increased vaginal discharge.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
- Bleeding after menopause.
- Unexplained, persistent pelvic and/or back pain.
Most of the time, early cervical cancer has no symptoms. Symptoms that may occur include: Abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause. Vaginal discharge that does not stop, and may be pale, watery, pink, brown, bloody, or foul-smelling.
Cervical screening (a smear test) checks the health of your cervix. The cervix is the opening to your womb from your vagina. It’s not a test for cancer, it’s a test to help prevent cancer. All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should be invited by letter. I would add that under 25 years if you have strong concerns then speak to your GP .
What is HPV ?
Human Papillomavirus ( HPV ) is the name for a very common group of viruses.You can get it from any kind of skin-to-skin contact of the genital area, not just from penetrative sex. Most people will get some type of HPV during their lives. Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by infection with certain types of HPV.