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"My fertility has been stripped away" woman’s warning about smear tests

A routine smear test changed the life of a 26-year-old woman and she is urging other women her aged to get checked.

Savannah Clancy knows the experience can be seen as embarrassing for thousands of women.

You have to literally open up your most intimate area and let a stranger stare and poke and swab.

But now Savannah is warning other women to get checked after she was "stripped of her fertility" at just 26 because of cervical cancer , reports the Cambridge News .

Like most women her age Savannah never thought cancer was a possibility, after all she was a healthy 26-year-old, settled with her partner Ben and beginning to plan for the future.

But at a routine smear test her life changed forever as she was told straight away there was something ‘abnormal’.

She said: "In August 2017 I had my smear done and straight away the GP knew something wasn’t right.

"I had the colposcopy, that’s where they have a look at you with a microscope to detects cells."

She added: "I only went to get it done because I had some symptoms after coming off the contraceptive implant, if I hadn’t then I probably wouldn’t have had it done."

Savannah also praised the speed of the NHS in diagnosing her.

She said: "Not knowing what it was was awful.

"A week after my smear test I got my diagnosis, before I’d even had the results of my smear test."

Savannah was told she had stage one B1 cervical cancer, meaning the disease was confined to the cervix, and was scheduled for a radical hysterectomy.

Her partner Ben Armitage was by her side throughout her four-day stint in Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Savannah’s treatment has left her unable to carry children of her own, and the future is now more uncertain.

She said: "That’s been one of the hardest things to deal with, health-wise and emotionally.

"My fertility has been stripped away. In most cancers part of your body can be removed without taking your fertility.

"I’m never going to be able to do this thing you think natural for a woman to do and would have been able to do without cancer."

The 27-year-old from Bury St Edmunds added: "I can’t have children now, so that’s been hard.

"If I wanted kids I’d have to go through surrogacy, which unless you have someone to volunteer, it’s a very expensive process and there’s no guarantee IVF would be covered under the NHS.

"I’m not in a position to be enquiring yet, just three-and-a-half months post-op but I want to do it in the future, when my health has been confirmed and I have the finances behind me."

Nationally 35% of women aged 25-35 don’t go to their smear test because they’re embarrassed about their body shape.

Other concerns which prevented women attending were worries about ‘smelling normally’ down there, the appearance of their vulva and shockingly a third of women said they wouldn’t go if they hadn’t recently waxed or shaved their bikini area.

Cervical cancer screenings went up in the months and years after Jade Goody ‘s high profile battle with the disease at just 27.

For Savannah she says it shouldn’t take someone so young dying for women to realise their health has to come before their embarrassment.

She said: "In terms of being scared it’s not worth being embarrassed for something that lasts two minutes.

"These are medical people, they see it every day.

"If you leave it too long and something is found you have to go through it hundreds of times.

"I’m still embarrassed, it’s cringey. I don’t want to look up there, I don’t why anyone would want to do it but get it done now and it will save you a lot more embarassment.

"You can have it once every three years or you can have it all the time with your colposcopy and then consultants looking at you and then all your check-ups on a regular basis. Instead of every three years you could need to go every three months like me."

Screening through smear tests is crucial for early diagnosis of cervical cancer and if it were as easy to check the rest of our body would we really say no?

Savannah said: "If there were more screening or preventative measures for your other body parts you’d go. Just because it’s an intimate area, it’s just as important as your lungs and skin.

"If you were concerned about that area you’d go and get it checked.

"Cervical cancer is just as deadly as any other cancer."

She added: "Jade Goody was 27, just one year older than I was. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you’re invincible."

Across the UK one in four women skip their smear test and for younger women aged 25-29 it’s as high as a third.

Charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust also found 34 per cent of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England are not actively trying to increase cervical screening over the last year, with many stating it’s not their responsibility.

The charity say this is despite them having roles and responsibilities to protect health and reduce inequalities.

Ahead of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which starts today, (January 22-28) the charity is urging women to get tested and CCGs to do more.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 but almost two thirds of of 25-35 year-olds are not aware of the risk.

It is estimated 37% of women don’t understand that a smear test can prevent cervical cancer but despite low screening levels almost every woman in the Jo’s Trust survey, 94%, said they wold take a free test to prevent cancer if available.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “Smear tests prevent 75% of cervical cancers so it is a big worry that so many young women, those who are most at risk of the disease, are unaware of the importance of attending.

"It is of further concern that body worries are contributing to non-attendance. Please don’t let unhappiness or uncertainty about your body stop you from attending what could be a life-saving test.

"Nurses are professionals who carry out millions of tests every year, they can play a big part in ensuring women are comfortable.”

During Cervical Cancer Prevention Week woman are being asked to #smearforsmear, sharing lipstick smeared selfies to spread the message.


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