It only takes 5 minutes, but could save your life
A young woman from Llandudno is helping to raise awareness of the importance of women attending their smear tests and spotting the signs of cervical cancer during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.
Jennifer Stokes, 34, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in July 2017 and underwent gruelling chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy treatment for 12 weeks.
Jennifer said: “I’ve always had my smear tests regularly, every three years, but in between my tests, I’d noticed that I was bleeding in between periods and went to see my GP.
Initially it was thought that I had an infection, but then I started to have bad pains in my back and I was referred to the Gynaecology Service at Ysbyty Gwynedd.
“I underwent numerous tests, scans and biopsies, and the tests came back positive – I had Stage 3 cervical cancer.
I started my treatment in August 2017 and during that time I received chemotherapy treatment at Ysbyty Gwynedd, radiotherapy at Glan Clwyd Hospital and Brachytherapy at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Merseyside.
My treatment finished in mid November 2017.
“I’m ok now, but I still have to have regular check-ups to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.
It’s really important for a woman who notices any signs and symptoms to go to their GP as soon as possible. The sooner you’re diagnosed and sooner your treatment can start.”
Jennifer’s Mother, Barbara, who was at her side throughout the investigations, diagnosis and treatment said: “I’m urging all women who receive an invitation for their smear test to pick up the phone and make their appointment. The test only takes 5 minutes, but it could save your life.”
Teresa Owen, Executive Director of Public Health at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: “We know that 75% of cervical cancers can be prevented if it is detected in the early stages via cervical screening, as the test can detect changes in the cells of the cervix before they become cancer.
“The symptoms of cervical cancer are not always obvious and may not cause any symptoms at all until it has reached an advanced stage.
The important symptoms to look out for are lower back pain, pain during sex, bleeding during/after sex, or between periods; post-menopausal bleeding or an unusual vaginal discharge.
“We’re urging women aged 25 – 49 to have a cervical smear test every 3 years and women aged 50 – 64 every 5 years.
“A virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) causes virtually all cases of cervical cancer. As part of the screening process, Cervical Screening Wales now test every woman who attends for a smear test for the HPV virus.
“If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or your smear test is overdue, pick up the phone today and make an appointment at your GP surgery or local sexual health clinic.”
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