“I am a cervical cancer survivor and I am blessed. I am here still here today.”
“In 2012, there were 226 deaths caused by cervical cancer in Australia alone. The Cervical cancer death rates in Australia have halved since the National Cervical Screening Program began in 1991 but for those it still affect life can be very hard if you are a survivor like me.
The Doctors told me at the time of treatment I had a 35% chance of ever having another child! I was devastated as I always wanted a big family but I was not about to give up on life or my dreams.”
“I am happy to say that after my treatment I went on to have two more children making my family into 5; Violet 7, Vincent 4, Veritee 2, my loving husband and I.
Life after cancer went on and I got stronger but for both of the births of my two children after cancer I had to be on complete bed rest in hospital for months due to having no cervix and the children having to be born prematurely.
The hardest thing was having to leave my children who had to stay at home and there were many tears. However when there were smiles and just having them has made up for that tenfold.
I am forever grateful for my husband and my children for giving me the strength to go on and be the best I can be after beating cancer!” Teena
The facts: Cervical cancer courtesy of www.cancer.org.au
There were 801 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Australia in 2011. The risk of a woman being diagnosed by age 85 is 1 in just 162.
Prevention: A vaccine has been developed that prevent the types of HPV most commonly linked to cervical cancer. Through the National Immunisation Program, most girls in Australia will receive the HPV vaccine around the age of 12. Since 2013, boys have also been included in the National HPV Immunisation Program because the vaccine also helps prevent some HPV-related cancers and disease that affect men.
Screening: The National Cervical Screening Program recommends all women aged between 18 and 70 who have ever been sexually active have regular Pap tests. Women should start having Pap tests every two years from 18-20 years of age, or one to two years after sexual activity commences, whichever is later.
Symptoms and diagnosis: Early changes in cervical cells rarely cause symptoms.
If early cell changes develop into cervical cancer, the most common signs include vaginal bleeding after menopause or a period, unusual vaginal discharge, excessive tiredness, leg pain or swelling and low back pain. If you have even just one symptom is best to get a pap smear to rule cervical cancer .
The usual tests to diagnose cervical cancer are: colposcopy biopsy, cone biopsy or large loop excision of the transformation zone.
After cervical cancer is diagnosed, one or more of the following tests are used to determine the extent of the cancer (its stage): blood tests, examination under anaesthetic (cystoscopy and proctosigmoidoscopy), chest x-ray, CT scan, MRI and a PET scan.
If cervical cancer is detected, it will be ‘staged’, from stage 0, which means abnormal cells are found only in the first layer of cells lining the cervix to stage IV, which means the cancer has spread to nearby organs such as the bladder or rectum or possibly other organs.
Treatment: Treatment depends on disease stage. For early and non-bulky disease (less than 4cm), treatment is surgery, sometimes with chemo radiotherapy afterwards.
If the tumour is small, a cone biopsy may suffice; in some cases hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) is required.
For locally advanced disease, a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy (cisplatin) is used.
For metastatic disease, the treatment is chemotherapy (platinum/fluorouracil) or palliative care alone.
Prognosis: An individual’s prognosis depends on the type and stage of cancer as well as their age and general health at the time of diagnosis. Cervical cancer can be effectively treated when it is found early. Most women with early cervical cancer will be cured. In Australia, the five year survival rate for women diagnosed with cervical cancer is 72%.
Treatment for cervical cancer may make it more difficult, or impossible, to become pregnant.
For more information, head to www.cancer.org.au or contact Cancer Council on 13 11 20 (cost of a local call).