Thursday, 2 June 2016

Dawn Tribute - Raising Awareness of Pseudomyxoma Peritonei

This week I lost someone very special to me. Actually, Dawn was very special to lots of people. She’s left a huge hole in the World. Since my friend, Elizabeth, broke the news to me I have been feeling really empty but at the same time I’ve regained my passion for what we do as volunteers. Since the change in my living situation almost two years ago, I’ve taken a step back from a lot of the voluntary work I do so I could get used to my new surroundings etc….. However, since finding out about Dawn, I have been reminded of how much I love raising awareness and being a volunteer. She’s managed to inspire me all over again.

I’ve been wracking my brains to work out how best to show how much Dawn meant to me. I’ve decided the best way to do this is to carry on the great work she has done for all these years. To raise awareness of the cancer she was diagnosed with and raised awareness of until she passed away. So today I’m going to write about this incredibly rare cancer. Not much is known about it so it won’t be a very long post but I hope it will raise some awareness in honour of my amazing friend.

In 2008 Dawn was diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP). Pseudomyxoma Peritonei is a very rare type of cancer that usually begins in your appendix as a small growth, called a polyp. Or, more rarely, it can start in other parts of the bowel, the ovary or bladder. This polyp eventually spreads through the wall of your appendix and spreads cancerous cells to the lining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum). There are usually no symptoms during the early stages of the disease. These cancerous cells produce mucus, which collects in the abdomen as a jelly like fluid called mucin. This then creates symptoms such as “jelly belly”. It affects around two people per million each year. All ages can be affected and both men and women.

It takes a while for symptoms to appear, and they can be symptoms of other conditions. But PMP cannot be ruled out if you are suffering from the below symptoms:
*Abdominal swelling or an increase in abdominal girth
*Changes in Bowel Habit
*Loss of Appetite
*Pelvic or Abdominal Pain
*General Fatigue
*Bowel Irritation
However PMP symptoms vary from patient to patient so there could be other symptoms as well. If you are not feeling yourself then please visit a doctor. PMP is very rare but if you have any concerns, please get yourself checked out.

Treatment for PMP is dependent on the grading of the tumour but usually involves the following:
*Cytoreductive Surgery (Debulking) can be used to remove the mucin and tumour in the abdominal cavity. This is usually a very long procedure (around 14 hours). They remove as many tumours as possible from the abdominal cavity.
 This is then usually followed by Intraoperative Hyperthermic Peritoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) where liquid chemotherapy is poured directly into the abdominal cavity to kill off any cancer cells that have been left behind. The chemo is usually heated to 42C as heated chemo is thought to be more effective at killing the cells. It is swished around to reach as many areas as possible for around 90 m inutes before being drained off and you are then closed up.
*Early Postoperative Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (EPIC) can then be used for several days after your operation through a port in your abdominal cavity. During this time liquid chemotherapy is poured in and then drained out again.

Dawn was given just three months to live and the cancer was so rare that her doctors didn’t know much about it at all. Whilst fighting the disease Dawn noticed a distinct lack of emotional support for people fighting this form of cancer.  Dawn decided to set up a charity to help others in her situation. Pseudomyxoma Survivor aims to provide emotional support for anyone dealing with this type of cancer and to prevent anyone feeling alone or isolated during their fight against the disease.

The charity fundraises and raises the profile of PMP whilst also funding research into the disease. Dawn was incredible patient advocate for all survivors, and this results in increased awareness and higher survival rates worldwide.

A cancer diagnosis is terrifying, especially when it’s a very rare cancer such as this one. More needs to be done to understand these rarer types of the disease so cures can be found and people can be saved. Dawn left the charity just before her death to concentrate on her own health but I really hope the charity continues to help the thousands of PMP sufferers around the World, just like Dawn did. She did so much to raise awareness of this incredibly rare cancer. She went around the world helping people. Somehow, despite being given three months to live all those years ago, she managed to keep going for so long. Sometimes she was in huge amounts of discomfort, and must have been seriously scared a lot of the time, but she managed to do so much to raise the profile of this cancer type. I will never be able to understand where she found her courage, strength, compassion and selflessness. Dawn Green really was one in a million xxx

If you have any more questions, worries, or would like to donate, please visit

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Tribute to Dawn x

In October 2016 I will be marking six years as a volunteer for Cancer Research UK. In that time I have been part of some incredible things and have had some of my proudest moments. But the defining part of my life as a volunteer is the amazing people I have been able to meet and get to know. The people I now call my friends. The people I call my volunteer family. 

When I first started volunteering my mum was really worried. I have been surrounded by cancer for almost my whole life. I’ve lost many people. I’ve experienced much sadness and loss at the hands of cancer. She couldn’t understand why I would want to be associated with the subject in such a full of way. At first I couldn’t understand why but gradually I came to realise that my mum was worried that I would develop attachments to people who would eventually pass away and make the hole in my heart caused by all the loss even bigger. The truth is my mum was right about this.

I’ve known Dawn Green for many many years now. I’ve written about her before. There are not enough words to describe how wonderful this lady was. In 2008 Dawn was diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP).
Pseudomyxoma Peritonei is a very rare type of cancer that usually begins in your appendix as a small growth, called a polyp. Or, more rarely, it can start in other parts of the bowel, the ovary or bladder. This polyp eventually spreads through the wall of your appendix and spreads cancerous cells to the lining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum). These cancerous cells produce mucus, which collects in the abdomen as a jelly like fluid called mucin.

Dawn was given just three months to live and the cancer was so rare that her doctors didn’t know much about it at all. Whilst fighting the disease Dawn noticed a distinct lack of emotional support for people fighting this form of cancer. 

Dawn decided to set up a charity to help others in her situation. Pseudomyxoma Survivor aims to provide emotional support for anyone dealing with this type of cancer and to prevent anyone feeling alone or isolated during their fight against the disease.

Dawn put PMP on the map. She worked tirelessly for those suffering. She raised money, she raised awareness, she helped everyone she could across the world. How she did it I will never know as most of the time she was struggling to survive the illness herself. She had major major operations and each time I held my breath waiting for the news that she hadn’t made it. But she defied the odds time and time again. I got used to this.

Dawn was a funny, kind, crazy, caring, interesting woman. She was a mum with so much fierce love for her two girls and her dog. She was an amazing friend. She was simply one of the best, and most inspirational, people I ever had the honour of meeting. The empty feeling I currently have is because the world is a little bit emptier now. A sadder place. There is definitely a hole without Dawn for many people, myself included. I really hope she is at peace and reunited with her beloved Dad now.

So yes, my mum was right; my heart is at risk of more sadness by being involved with Cancer Research UK. But I really wouldn’t have it any other way. The people I have met are my friends, they provide me with inspiration. They look out for me. They make me laugh. They make me want to do more to help others.  They hold a very special place in my heart. For Dawn we will keep on at Cancer and we will carry on helping others just like she did, hopefully with the same humour, passion and kindness she displayed to those that knew and loved her. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Cancer Research UK Annual Review 2015

A frequent question myself and other CRUK volunteers are asked is "where does my donation go?" People are aware that millions are donated every year but many aren't aware of what these funds are spent on. CRUK have released their annual review and, as usual, I'm going to break it down so that people can see where the money is going.

Let me first explain that 80p of every £1 donated is spent on research. That is a huge amount and probably one of the best in the third sector. The other 20p is used to raise funds for the future
£621 Million was raised by CRUK supporters last year
*£169 Million was raised by legacies (People leaving money in their wills)
*£122 Million was raised by regular donations (there are over 1 million people making regular donations)
*£91 Million was raised by trading (the CRUK shops)
*£89 Million was raised by charitable activities (including money from Cancer Research Technology)
*£63 Million was raised by events (for example Race for Life)
*£41 Million was raised by corporate or volunteer fundraising (Including local fundraising groups)
*£36 Million was raised by other donations (Including major giving and appeals)
*£10 Million was raised by other income (Income from CRUK investments)
9/10 donations are less than £10 which goes to show that every penny really does count and giving what you can afford, even if it isn’t a lot, really can make a huge difference.
This money funds over 4,000 world class scientists, doctors and nurses across the UK.
£341 Million was spent on research in 2014-2015
*£116 Million was spent on research that underpins all cancer types
*£31 Million was spent on breast cancer
*£31 Million was spent on lung cancer
*£30 Million was spent on over 100 cancers including cervical, kidney, stomach and testicular
*£30 Million was spent on bowel cancer
*£21 Million was spent on leukaemia
*£15 Million was spent on pancreatic cancer
*£15 Million was spent on prostate cancer
*£15 Million was spent on skin cancer
*£11 Million was spent on ovarian cancer
*£9 Million was spent on brain cancer
*£7 Million was spent on non hodgkin lymphoma
*£6 Million was spent on oesophageal cancer
*£4 Million was spent on bladder cancer
I am just one of over 40,00 volunteers for CRUK. Together we donate over seven millions hours worth of time to CRUK. The charity has a huge volunteer base because we all genuinely believe in the cause and the charities aims. It's been an amazing year for the charity:
*More than 600,000 people took part in walks, runs, cycling or swimming events to raise funds
*The charity is working with over 1,200 GP practices to try and help diagnose cancer sooner
*Over 53,000 took place in the Dryathlon and went without alcohol in January to raise funds#
*More then 90,000 people supported us CRUK Ambo's as we aimed to "Cross Cancer Out"
*The CRUK nurses helpline answered over 11,000 queries
*Over 27,000 patients took part in CRUK clinical trials
*Over 4 million bags of stuff were donated to CRUK shops
*Over 60,000 people visited the Cancer Awareness Roadshow to learn more about reducing their cancer risk and how to spot cancer early
I hope this brief guide has shown you that a donation to Cancer Research UK, no matter how small, is very very worthwhile. Research is being conducted every single day and the money you donate is being put to good use! It is a long and complicated process but progress is made in small steps every single day and we are slowing edging towards the day when we can proclaim that cancer will soon be a thing of the past.
For more information on this please contact Cancer Research UK for a copy of their Annual Review (it can be downloaded from their website). It is a very interesting and informative read.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The UK General Election 2015 and Cancer

Hello! It's been a long time since I've blogged. Life is busy - just how I like it - but I do love to write and am passionate about my subject so I hope to create time to do more posts from now on.

There's just over a week to go until the UK General Election. I hope you've registered to vote if you are eligible - it's going to be a close race in my opinion and every vote will count. We get to decide who will be representing the constituencies we live in and representing our views in Parliament as well as ultimately deciding who will lead our country for the next few years. If you're over the age of eighteen and registered to vote then you have a chance to make your voice heard and exercise your right to vote.

To read about the manifestos of various parties and their stance on cancer related issues please click these links

Real progress is being made in the fight against cancer and CRUK's political actions is helping to accelerate this progress. Cancer is a political issue as well as a emotional one and it is something that matters to all of us. Survival rates have doubled over the last forty years but there is still lots more work to be done and this campaign is focusing on what the charity would like election candidates to focus on:

*Continued Support for Campaigns to Raise Public Awareness of the Signs and Symptoms of Cancer
Campaigns such as Be Clear on Cancer help raise awareness and encourage people to seek help when they feel they can identify some key signs and symptoms of cancer within their bodies. During the BCOC lung cancer campaign, 700 more people were diagnosed with lung cancer and 300 more received potentially life saving treatment compared to the same time period the year before. CRUK want the government to continue to support such campaigns in the UK.

*A Commitment to Increase Participation in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. As with most cancers, patients diagnosed at an earlier stage are more likely to survive, with four out of five patients with the earliest stage of the disease surviving at least five years after diagnosis. However fewer then one in ten patients are diagnosed at the earliest stage. CRUK would like the government to ask local areas to increase the number of people participating in bowel screening by at least 10% as well as providing quality information on the risks and benefits of the screening process so people can make an informed decision on whether to participate.

*Strengthen the System and Processes that Support Cancer Diagnosis
Health is a devolved issue but people living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can still get involved in the campaign as your next MP's will also need to be encouraged to keep cancer high on the political agenda. They will also have the power to advocate for improved health throughout the UK. Successful initiatives in England will have an impact on the other three nations so it is important MP's are aware of what is going on.

*Equal Access to Innovative Radiotherapy, Surgery and Effective Cancer Drugs, including Drugs Targeted to Patients' Tumours.
-Radiotherapy is a cost-effective and cutting edge cure for cancer. Treatments are becoming more sophisticated over time and CRUK believe it is important that patients receive the very latest treatments as soon as they have been proven effective and become available. Research suggests radiotherapy contributes to four in ten cases where the cancer is cured. My Ambo family helped secure over £23million from the government to help increase patient access to radiotherapy so that now over 6,000 more patients have access to a targeted radiotherapy with less side effects. CRUK now want to government to commit to a long term strategy to make innovative radiotherapy treatments available to all those who would benefit. This strategy should include details on how out dated radiotherapy machines will be replaced by newer equipment with more advanced techniques as well as how the workforce will be resourced,
-Surgery is essential when it comes to managing and treating cancer. It contributes to half of all cases were cancer is cured. Evidence suggests that older patients are less likely to have surgery for their cancer and CRUK believes surgery should be offered to ALL cancer patients where appropriate regardless of age. We want the government to commit to increase access to surgery for the older population.
-Cancer drugs are an important part in many patients treatment. Appropriate access to effective and innovative drugs is vital and we need the government to find a long term solution to make these drugs available to the patients who need them. NICE, the NHS and drug companies will be required to work together to make this happen. Personalised medicine is already revolutionising cancer treatment as it makes sure patients get the best drugs for their condition, and hopefully avoid side effects from the drugs specialists can predict will not work for them, We will hopefully develop many more targeted treatments in the future and we need to make sure the government and NHS develop a commissioning policy so patients can be offered the appropriate diagnostic tests.

Lizzy Allen, one of the lovely ladies looking after my Ambo family, has written a blog about the campaign which you can read here 

You can take part in the campaign by taking two minutes to click the link and allow CRUK to email your election candidates and ask them to support the campaign.

Campaigns are what we Ambassadors do best and I'm hugely excited about this one. The build up to the general election is really important and I encourage as many people as possible to get involved and help decide who will be in charge of our country next. Thank you very much in advance for clicking the link!!

My story has been used as a case study which you can read here:


Monday, 9 February 2015

For My Hayley xx

Today should be Sid Quorn's birthday. Sadly he passed away, leaving behind his lovely daughter, Hayley. Hayley is one of the funniest, kindest and most truest friends I have. Always ready to help anyone, always with something funny to say, always ready to put others before herself. Your dad would be really proud of you Hayley! I miss you brightening up my daily life!! Today's post is dedicated to the two of you xxx

Sadly poor Sid had cancer in a lot of places but Hayley did tell me that one place he had it was in the colon so today I'm going to explain the progress being made in the fight against colon (bowel) cancer.

Cancer of the bowel is the third most common cancer type in the UK, with more then 41,000 people diagnosed every day. It kills around 16,000 people per year in the UK. Thanks to advancements in research, half of those diagnosed with bowel cancer today will survive for at least ten years after the diagnosis. The work of CRUK has played a huge role in this.

Making a Difference:
So far CRUK has played a huge role in researching ways to prevent, diagnosis and treat bowel cancer:
*Faulty genes, including the APC gene, which are responsible for bowel cancers running in families have been discovered and this has also led to researchers finding the subtle genetic variations that increase the bowel cancer risk in the general population.
*There was a campaign for the introduction of a bowel screening programme in the UK which saves thousands of lives every year
*Major clinical trials have been funded to change the way those with advanced bowel cancer are treated.
*CRUK helped fund the EPIC, the largest ever study into diet and cancer. This discovered that a diet containing a high amount of red and processed meat, as well as high alcohol consumption, increases your bowel cancer risk. It also discovered that a diet containing lots of high fibre food and lots of physical activity can reduce your bowel cancer risk.
*CRUK helped develop and test many of the drugs used to treat bowel cancer including
*CRUK also helped fund the groundbreaking trial of an alternative bowel screening programme which is called a Bowel Scope. This could prevent a third of all bowel cancer cases.

Current Research into Bowel Cancer
Our donations to CRUK currently help fund a number of research projects into bowel cancer. There are currently around fourteen separate research studies into bowel cancer taking place in CRUK labs including:
*Dr Farhat Din is a Clinician Scientist with CRUK and hold a prestigious CRUK Fellowship which allows her to research how aspirin can reduce the risk of bowel cancer. This important work could lead to better prevention strategies in the future and will hopefully discover the best way to use aspirin to prevent bowel cancer. 

*Labs in Oxford, London, Edinburgh and Cambridge are currently tracking down the gene faults linked with bowel cancer. This will hopefully lead to a more personalised screening process and treatment.

*The Beatson Institute, Glasgow, is home to Dr Own Sansom who is currently tracking the changes that turn healthy bowel cells into cancerous ones. This important work will hopefully show us how the disease develops and how to treat it in the future.

*Prof Dion Morton is running a major clinical trial in Birmingham which is testing whether chemotherapy before surgery can shrink the tumour, making it easier to remove and reducing the risk of it coming back in the future.

*Christine Campbell is in Edinburgh researching how we can increase the amount of people having bowel screening, which has the potential to save lives by diagnosing bowel cancer in the early stages when it is more curable.

You can find out about even more research projects into bowel cancer at

In celebration of Sid and Hayley I'll be making a little donation to one of these research projects. That means that donation will directly affect research into bowel cancer in Sid's memory. Hopefully this means his memory will help save someone else in the future. I'm not sure if I have ever mentioned that you can donate money to a specific research project, or a specific type of cancer, when donating to CRUK. All you have to do is visit the MyProjects page and pick the project you identify most with.

To read more of my bowel cancer related posts please visit 

Thinking of you today my lovely Hayley, and really looking forward to seeing you next month!!! Lots of love xxxx

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens Campaign

For those that don't know I'll explain why this campaign is so important to me. I've lost six relatives to cancer so far in my life. Sadly my cousin Georgie was one of them. He lost his mum when he was a baby and was then diagnosed with a very rare cancer himself on his second birthday. He was very very brave and he survived that first diagnosis. He grew into the most lovable, smiliest, most fun child in the world. He gave us all so much happiness. He was then diagnosed with osteosarcoma as a teenager and he once again showed bravery way beyond his years. Our hearts broke when he succumbed to his illness on April 25th 2011 aged just seventeen. Our hearts are still broken to this day as we still try to navigate life without his beautiful heart, his sense of fun, his love and his amazing nature. I will never ever recover from his death, there is a hole in my heart that will never heal. There is no way to describe watching someone you have loved from the moment they were born suffer in such a horrific way. The fact that he died on my birthday is just horrific - imagine the feeling of growing another year older on the same date someone you treated as a brother stopped living. The voluntary work is to ensure no one else has to lose someone the way we had to lose him.

Every day around 10 young people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer.  Despite being rare compared to cancer in adults, cancer is still the leading cause of death by disease in children, teens and young adults under the age of 24, and it has a devastating impact on youngsters and their families. Cancer Research UK have launched a new campaign to raise more money to research the cancers found in children, teenagers and young adults.

The cancers seen in children are usually very different to those seen in adults and “childhood” refers to any child aged between birth and fourteen years old.

There are twelve main types of childhood cancer:
*Soft Tissue Sarcomas
*Kidney Tumours
*Brain and Central Nervous System (CNS)
*Bone Tumours (Like the one Georgie had)
*Carcinomas and Melanomas
*Gonadal and Germ Cell Tumours
*Liver Tumours
*Sympathetic Nervous System Tumours
*Other and Unspecified Tumours

Childhood cancer is quite rare and makes up 5% of all cancers. Around 1,600 children in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every year, which roughly works out at thirty one children per week. Around one in every five hundred children in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer.

The UK’s childhood cancer rates are amongst the lowest in Europe, with Northen Europe having the highest incidence rate.

Leukeamia is the most common childhood cancer. Two thirds of all childhood cancers are  leukeamia, brain and CNS tumours and lymphomas.

Surviving Childhood Cancer:
More children then ever are surviving cancer. The survival rate has doubled since the 1960’s and at least 5,600 MORE children now survive for more then five years after diagnosis.
Around 33,000 people in the UK have survived a type of childhood cancer and almost three quarters of children with cancer can now be cured of the disease.

For every ten childhood cancer sufferers – eight will now survive for more then five years after their diagnosis:
*Nearly all children diagnosed with retinoblastoma are cured.
*Survival rates for Hepatoblastoma have doubled since the 1960’s.
*Around six out of ten children diagnosed with neuroblastoma are cured.
*Eight out of ten children with kidney cancer survive the disease.
*Rhabdomyosarcoma survival rates have doubled since the 1970’s.

Childhood Cancer Deaths:
Cancer is the UK’s leading cause of death (from disease) in children aged up to fourteen. A fifth of all childhood deaths are down to cancer.
Brain and CNS tumours are the most common fatal type of childhood cancer.
Around two hundred and fifty children die from cancer every year in the UK.
Childhood cancer death rates have halved since the 1960’s.

Causes of Childhood Cancer:
We don’t know much about what causes childhood cancers but there are several things we do know:
*Rare genetic syndromes such as Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (what Georgie had) can greatly increase a child’s risk of developing cancer.
*Children with Down ’s syndrome have a greater risk of developing leukaemia.
*2/5 retinoblastomas are linked to a faulty gene that has been inherited.
*Children that have had radiotherapy or chemotherapy in the past are at greater risk of developing a second cancer (As Georgie did)

If you would like to learn more about this campaign, childhood cancer, or would like to donate to the campaign, please visit

Monday, 26 January 2015

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2015

It's currently Cervical Cancer Prevention Week in the UK. Cervical cancer is a subject I frequently visit on this blog. I really believe there is no reason at all why so many women are diagnosed with this horrific type of cancer when it is actually preventable. Today's post will go over some things I have mentioned before but I really do think it is a hugely important issue and I hope this blog post persuades at least one woman to book her smear once she's finished reading.
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust have released a report which states that cases of cervical cancer have risen but 4.8% in women aged between 25-29 in the UK. My age group. The charity think this is because women are not attending their smear appointments. More then 1/5 women ignore their invitation for screening - possibly because they feel shy, embarrassed or scared. Hopefully this post will persuade you that there is  NOTHING to be worried, scared or embassased about when it comes to a smear test!
The Cervix:
The cervix is basically the neck of the womb (uterus). It is the opening to the womb from the vagina. The cervix is a very strong muscle which is usually tightly shut but it does open during labour so the baby can come out. The outer surface of the cervix has a layer of cells which are almost skin-like. When these cells become cancerous it is known as squamous cell cervical cancer. There are glandular cells lining the inside of the cervix producing mucus. Cancer of these cells is called adenocarcinoma of the cervix. There is an area of the cervix known as the transformation zone. This is around the opening of the cervix leading onto a narrow passageway that runs into the womb. This zone is where cells are most likely to become cancerous.

Risks and Causes of Cervical Cancer:
* Human Pampilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common and biggest cause of cervical cancer. HPV is passed on from person to person via sexual contact. There are many different types of HPV and not all of them cause cervical cancer. One type causes genital warts but not cervical cancer. However other types are considered high risk. These types can lead to cells in the cervix changing and becoming cancerous. Most women who have HPV and develop cervical cancer will have had other infections caused by HPV in the past. However, not every woman with HPV will develop cervical cancer.
* Smoking can lead to cervical cancer; women who smoke are more likely to develop this type of cancer then women that do not smoke.
* Taking the pill can also increase your risk but the reason for this is not yet known
* Women that have bore a large number of children also have a slightly higher risk as are women with a weakened immune system.

Smear Tests:
Points to Consider:
You can have a smear test at several different places:
* Your GP’s surgery should offer them
* A family planning clinic
* A genito-urinary clinic
* An antenatal clinic
* A private health clinic
* Marie Stopes

You are well within your rights to request a female doctor or nurse performs your test but any male doctors will be chaperoned by a female staff member anyway. It is important to state if you require a female at the time of booking your appointment. 

A smear test should be scheduled whilst you are in the middle of your menstrual cycle (between periods) as it will be very difficult to see your cervix and get a cell sample whilst you are bleeding.

Age Limits:
There are varying age limits for women in the four nations of the UK.
* Women between the ages of twenty five and sixty four are screened every three to five years in England and Northern Ireland.
* In Scotland, cervical screening is offered to women aged between twenty and sixty.
* Wales offers cervical screening to women aged between twenty and sixty four.

Research has shown that screening every three years prevents 84/100 cases of cervical cancer that would develop if they weren’t caught by the smears. So getting a smear test every three years is recommended by the NHS up until you are fifty years old. Abnormal cells develop at a much slower rate in women over fifty so screening is recommended after five years for women in that age group. Your local primary care trust will contact you whenever it is time for a screening for you. I cannot stress the importance of attending these appointments enough – it could save you from a battle with cancer.

The Screening Process:
Cervical cancer is preventable. This is because pre cancerous cell changes can be picked up before they have a chance to develop. A cervical cancer screening test is known as a smear test. This involves a doctor or a nurse using a speculum to take a small sample of cells from the surface of your cervix. It sounds horrific and it can be very uncomfortable but I am going to try and explain it as clearly as I can!
You will need to take off your underwear and lie back on the couch/bed. Being as relaxed as you possibly can be will make the procedure less uncomfortable. 

Occasionally, the person doing the test will perform a vaginal examination first. This means they will place two gloved fingers inside your vagina to make sure your womb is in the correct position and that it feels like it’s a normal size. They will use their other hand to press down on your abdomen and gently feel your womb.
Then comes the actual smear test: The speculum is placed inside your vagina and has two arms which are used to spread the sides of your vagina apart so the cervix can be clearly seen. A small brush is then inserted and used scraped along the surface of your cervix to collect a sample of your cells. The brush and the cells are then sent to a lab in a pot of liquid and examined under a microscope. Any abnormal cells are reported and further investigation on these cells will be needed. 

The Results:
The important thing to remember with smear tests results is: DON’T PANIC!!! Cancer is not the only cause of abnormal cells or an abnormal result. Sometimes you may be asked to go back for a repeat test, again don’t panic, it could be because:
* You were on your period and the blood meant your cells weren’t visible enough
* Your cervix was inflamed and the cells weren’t visible enough
* An infection was blocking the view of the cells
* There were not enough cells collected in the first test

You may also be told that your test was borderline. This means cell changes have been noted but they were so very close to normal that they are probably nothing to worry yourself about and they will probably return to normal by themselves. You may be asked to go back and have another test in a few months to monitor the situation. You may also be offered a HPV test as HPV is a cause of cervical cancer. If you do test positive for HPV then you will probably been sent for more tests, including a colposcopy to monitor your cervix and the cell changes.

Cervical erosion can be picked up by smear tests. This is not cervical cancer. This means the glandular cells which are normally found inside your cervical canal are now visible on the surface of your cervix and it can be inflamed. This is a common condition for teenage girls, pregnant women and women on the pill. It can make you bleed slightly but it usually goes away by itself with no need for treatment.

Abnormal Tests Results:
Abnormal results are usually reported like this:
Mild Dyskaryosis or CIN 1(mild or slight cell changes)
If you are told that you have mild cell changes then you will probably be told to get a colposcopy straight away or to wait and have another smear in six months. Sometimes mild cell changes will go back to normal by themselves but it is important to monitor them and go back for any tests advised by your medical team. If a second test shows abnormal cells then a colposcopy is definitely needed to assess the situation. 

Moderate Dyskaryosis or CIN 2 (moderate cell changes)
Treatment will be needed if you have moderate cell changes but you only usually need it once. Then you will have follow up tests to monitor the cells in your cervix. If you have successful treatment after an abnormal smear and carry on having regular smears then you are unlikely to get cervical cancer. If you do not have treatment then you are at real risk of developing cervical cancer

Severe Dyskaryosis or CIN 3 (severe cell changes)
This is also sometimes known as carcinoma in situ (CIS) which sounds like cancer but it isn’t. This means some cells in your cervix look cancerous but are all found in the skin layer which covers your cervix. It won’t be “true” cancer until it breaks through the layer and starts to spread into the surrounding tissue. Urgent treatment is needed for this kind of smear result but if it is moved ASAP then cancer can be prevented.

All these results mean the cells found are pre cancerous meaning if they are left to go untreated, they could develop into cancer of the cervix. YOU DO NOT HAVE CERVICAL CANCER IF YOU ARE TOLD YOU HAVE ABNORMAL CELLS.

9/10 smears come back normal. 1/20 shows a borderline or mild cell change. Most of the time these cells will return to normal by themselves. 1/100 shows moderate cell changes whilst 1/200 show severe changes. Less than 1/1000 shows cancer. 

You don’t have to be over the age of twenty five to develop cervical cancer; some younger women do develop it as well. However, in the UK, smear tests are not encouraged until twenty five because your cervix is still developing in your teens and early twenties. This means the likelihood of you getting an abnormal result is more common but usually nothing to worry about. After Jade Goody’s horrifically young death, a campaign was launched to lower the smear test age limit but medical professionals do not agree with this. If you are under twenty five and are concerned about your cervical cancer risk – please do speak to your GP and get some advice. A private gynaecologist may allow you to have a smear test but it would depend on your individual circumstances.


It is also important to note that an abnormal smear result does not mean you have cervical cancer. If you are contacted and told your test was abnormal then please do not ignore it, go and see what your doctors have to say.

Before I start listing the symptoms, please note that pre cancerous cells do not produce symptoms. This means having a smear test is hugely important – you can catch the cancer before it even develops. It is also important to know that the following symptoms do not instantly mean you have cervical cancer but it is important to go to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
* Bleeding between periods
* Bleeding during or after sex
* Bleeding at any time after the menopause
* Discomfort or pain during sex

Treating Abnormal Cells
Should you receive your smear test reveal abnormal cells then it is hugely important that you have treatment. Don't ignore the letter, although I'm sure you'll be terrified. Ask questions, speak to your doctor, seek support from your loved ones but please please please get yourself treated as soon as possible. These cells need to be sorted before they develop into cancer.

There are quite a few different ways to treat abnormal cervical cells. I’ll try to explain the various types of treatment here today. It’s important to remember that treatment is decided based on the type of cells, your own body and the stage the cells are at. If you do have abnormal cells then it is vital to get them treated as soon as you possibly can. Treatment will destroy the abnormal cells before they can become cancerous.

First Steps:
If you have mild cell changes then you may be told to wait six months and have a repeat test. This is because mild cell changes usually sort themselves out. If you have moderate to severe cell changes then you will probably be referred to your local hospital for a colposcopy. This is an outpatient procedure and it is basically a close examination of your cervix which doesn’t actually go inside your vagina. The doctor or nurse specialist uses something like a magnifying glass to look at the cells on your cervix in more detail and takes a biopsy to send to the lab for further examination.

Types of Treatment:
Laser Therapy (Laser Ablation): some cells can be burned away by a laser in an outpatient procedure. For this kind of treatment you will lie on a bed with your legs in stirrups whilst a doctor places a speculum into your vagina to hold it open whilst they point a laser beam at the abnormal areas. You will be given local anaesthetic to numb the area and prevent pain. The laser is a very strong and hot beam of light and it burns away the abnormal cells. This can cause a slight burning smell whist you are having the treatment but that just means the laser is working so try not to worry. You should be able to go home as soon as the treatment is finished. You may experience period type pains but they should go away with the normal paracetamol or ibuprofen and some bed rest.

Cold Coagulation: This name is a little misleading as the treatment isn’t cold at all! You lie on a bed with your legs in stirrups whilst a doctor inserts a speculum to hold your vagina open. A hot probe is then used to burn away the abnormal cells. You shouldn’t be able to feel the probe but it can cause some period type pains which should go away a few hours after the treatment has finished.

Cryotherapy: This is basically cold coagulation but with a cold probe instead of a hot one. The cold probe freezes the abnormal cells. The procedure is exactly the same as the cold coagulation.

Diathermy: This is done under local anaesthetic. An electronic current is used to cut away the tissue that contains the abnormal cells. It is a fairly quick procedure and it usually done as an outpatient case which means you should be able to go home afterwards. It can cause bleeding or discharge for about four weeks after the treatment but sanitary towels will have to be used as tampons have to be avoided for four weeks. Sex must also be avoided for four weeks following a diathermy procedure.

Cone Biopsy: This is a minor operation that can be used to diagnose cervical cancer or to treat abnormal cells. The entire area containing possible abnormal cells is removed. It is called a cone biopsy because a cone shaped area of tissue is removed from the cervix. This is called the transformation zone. This can be done under general or local anaesthetic.

Hysterectomy: If you are past menopause, or have had all your children, then your doctor may suggest removing your uterus. This is usually suggested if you have had abnormal cells more then once or if the cells are severely abnormal.

These treatments do sound rather uncomfortable and scary but it is massively important to have abnormal cells treated to prevent them developing into cervical cancer. Please do remember to book yourself in for a smear if you are due one. As I’ve said before, a little discomfort is nothing compared to a battle with cervical cancer.

If you are worried about HPV or cervical cancer then please contact your GP or visit for more information. If you are reading this and you are above twenty five but haven’t had a smear test for a few years, please book one ASAP. Too many women die from cervical cancer and knowing it is preventable makes their deaths even more tragic. Please don’t put your health at risk.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is also known as Jo’s Trust and it is the only UK based charity to focus solely on women that have been affected by cervical cancer and their families. They also help women dealing with cervical abnormalities. They aim to offer information, advice, friendship and support to these women, regardless of their age and status. They also try to educate women on the importance of cervical screening and to provide support for the women that have abnormal screening results or ladies that have a cervical cancer diagnosis.

Jo’s Trust has a mission: “Our mission is to see cervical cancer prevented, reduce the impact for everyone affected by cervical abnormalities."

The trust provides support groups, allowing women to come together, bond and share experiences. They also have a helpline to provide support, they have an online forum for people to come together in the comfort of their own home and a yearly meeting for women to get together and enjoy themselves. They also provide many helpful information leaflets which can be found on their website.

Jo’s Trust is a fabulous charity which does amazing things for women in the UK. I whole heartedly agree with their mission and their core values and I would love to see them succeed and help make cervical cancer a thing of the past. Please do check out their website and find out ways to help them achieve their goals. You can also find them on twitter @JosTrust