Cervical cancer affects around 3,000 women every year in the UK and it can be hard to diagnose as one in four women avoid going for their smear tests.
Carla Bradbury was one of those 3,000 women five years ago, when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Now she’s sharing her story in a bid to make other women aware of the symptoms and ways to spot the condition early.
Speaking to Prima, Carla Bradbury explained she was suffering from unusual symptoms that can easily be missed. These included stomach pains, which she attributed to drinking too much fizzy water, and abnormal vaginal bleeding between periods.
‘I was given a Sodastream for my birthday and thought that my stomach pains were coming from having too much fizzy water, so I didn’t go to the doctors straight away,’ she told the publication.
‘I also experienced spotting between periods – which I thought was down to hormones.’
The 46-year-old was diagnosed with cervical cancer after having a smear test and now, five years later, Carla is urging other women to keep up with their smear tests and look out for the symptoms.
Going for regular screenings could help diagnose cervical cancer at an early stage
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer symptoms aren’t always obvious to spot, and there may even be none until it reaches an advanced stage, which is why regular cervical screening appointments are crucial.
Cervical cancer symptoms to look out for
- Unusual bleeding (any other time than your expected monthly period, even after menopause
- Pain and discomfort during sex
- Unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge
Advanced cervical cancer symptoms
These symptoms usually start to occur when the condition has progressed and spread out of your cervix.
- Blood in your urine
- Urinary incontinence
- Bone pain
- Swelling of one of your legs
- Severe pain in your side or back caused by swelling in your kidneys
- Changes in bladder and bowel habits
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Lack of energy
What should I do if I’m worried?
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If you’re worried about cervical cancer, the first thing you should do is speak to your doctor and not ignore any symptoms.
Going for regular smear tests could help diagnose the condition early – in fact, the NHS says 347 lives could be saved each year in England if all eligible women went for regular screenings.
At the moment, all women registered with a GP are invited for cervical screening every three years if they’re aged 25 to 49; every five years aged 50 to 64.