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Cervical cancer awareness

Cancer awareness campaigners have warned that the “Jade Goody effect”, which created a surge in numbers of women attending cancer screenings, appears to have been short-lived.

Janet, Paul and LilyToday is the third anniversary of the reality TV star’s death and young women are being urged to attend screening appointments, and reminded that the earlier any cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome will be.

39-year-old Clatterbridge patient Janet Roylance from St Helens is speaking out about her cervical cancer diagnosis in the hope other women take notice of the signs and symptoms to catch this disease early enough to beat it.

Every year in the UK, over 2,800 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly 1,000 women will die from the disease. After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women aged 35 and under.

Janet who works for the St. Helens Coalition for Disabled People said: ”I suffered for 18months with excruciating heavy periods before I hemorrhaged in December 2010 and was rushed to hospital for an emergency blood transfusion. I had visited my GP many times over those 18 months and been prescribed various medicines to try and help. My consultant told me later that because the tumour was slightly further up my cervix it had gone undetected in my smear tests.

“The upside of my diagnosis was the cancer hadn’t spread and it was treatable. I was just so relieved to know what was wrong with me, I knew what I was dealing with and I could just get on and get it sorted.

“The 2011 new year started off for me with a course of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and brachytherapy at Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology. My Consultant Dr Karen Whitmarsh was a breath of fresh air. She helped me so much to get through it. I’m forever indebted to her.

“I was angry when I was first diagnosed, mainly because I felt all this could have been avoided. Angry with myself for not being aware of the symptoms – bleeding after sex; irregular periods; a brighter ‘red’ colour of blood when bleeding, but angry with my GP too for not recognising the potential that this could be cancer and not just heavy periods.”

99.7% of cervical cancers are caused by persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which causes changes to the cervical cells. HPV is an extremely common virus; around four out of five people will be exposed to the virus. Anyone who is sexually active can be infected with HPV at some time and the body’s immune system will usually clear it up. Generally, most people don’t even know they have contracted the virus at all.

Janet added: “For a few hours after being told I had cancer, I remember thinking ‘I’m not going to see my little girl grow up’. For some strange reason, I started to panic about who would dress her. I knew my husband wouldn’t be able to co-ordinate her outfits, and if I left it up to my sister she’d have her in a Liverpool Football Kit! We joke about that now, but at the time it was a real concern. After that freak out, I remember just stopping myself and saying ‘No, we’re going to deal with this. I will see my little girl grow up. No-one else is going to coordinate her outfits’.

“Lily was just five-years-old at the time, she coped so well throughout the whole ordeal, but I have my family and friends, and her school to thank for that. She attends Carr Mill Primary School and without their support I don’t know what I would have done. The Head Teacher kept in regular contact with me throughout my treatment with updates on how she was doing. My sister-in-law took her to school and my mum and dad picked her up. So although not the same routine we tried our best to give her a regular routine.”

Janet was given the all clear in May 2011, but has regular four month check ups. Her attitude remains positive and she is looking forward to the future.

“Gardening is my passion - I run an allotment for disabled people through my work. We’ve just moved house, to a house with a garden, my first house with a garden! I just can’t wait! My husband has bought me a bike for Mother’s day so we’re going to go on family bike rides. Me and Lily have the most special bond, we’ve just taken up funky knitting too. I want to spend every moment I can with her.

“At the moment my story has a very bright light at the end of it, and I know I have to be thankful for the people and support around me, and the excellent care I received at Clatterbridge. It hasn’t been easy, I’ve been having a bit of pain in my bowel, which is a consequence of the treatment. But without the treatment I wouldn’t be here so I’m not complaining. I have my moments where I feel like I failed myself. If I had just been a bit more pushy with my GP and demanded a second opinion maybe I could have caught it earlier? Then I struggle to believe I’m even having those conversations with myself because I still can’t believe it happened to me. But I have to accept it did, and just be aware of what’s going on with my body and any changes.”

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