One year on – cancer survivor urges women to have a smear test

Posted on Tuesday 23 January 2018
2018-01-04 Barbara Calabrese, Danielle Calabrese and Lorna Lightbody (1299) small

Danielle Calabrese (centre), her mother, Barbara (left) and clinical nurse specialist, Lorna Lightbody

A 35 year old woman who received life-saving treatment at the Cancer Centre at Guy’s after being diagnosed with cervical cancer is reminding women to get regular smear tests and to visit their GP early if they experience signs of cervical cancer.

Around 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year but early detection and treatment can prevent 75% of cervical cancers developing. Whilst it is possible for women of all ages to develop cervical cancer, the condition mainly affects sexually active women aged between 30 and 45.

Most women do not have any obvious signs or symptoms of cervical cancer until it has reached an advanced stage but if they do it will often be vaginal bleeding outside of the expected monthly period or after the menopause. That is why it is so important for women to attend cervical screening appointments when invited to by their GP.

Danielle Calabrese has a less common form of cervical cancer which develops in the glandular tissue (inner part) of the cervix. She was diagnosed after having a routine smear test in October 2015 and began her treatment at Guy's and St Thomas’ in 2016.

Danielle had a radical trachelectomy which removes the cervix, surrounding tissue and the upper part of the vagina, but leaves the womb in place. She went on to have a fertility preservation treatment (freezing of eggs), followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy.

Danielle, who is supported by the gynaecology oncology team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and helped to inform women about the condition in 2017, says: “I want to do everything I can to raise awareness of cervical cancer. I can’t stress enough how important it is to go along to your GP for a smear test when you’re called or if something doesn’t feel right. It could save your life.

“So far, so good for me. It’s been 15 months since my treatment ended and I go back to the Cancer Centre at Guy’s for follow-ups. It's an anxious time waiting for scan results, so when I go into the doctor’s office, if everything is fine, I’m so relieved that I forget to ask the questions I need to. But I know I can call Lorna Lightbody, my clinical nurse specialist, at any time. She’s always there for me and will follow up on questions to the doctors on my behalf. I'm very grateful for her and my doctors.

“I also participated in a programme for cancer survivors run by Dimbleby Cancer Care at the centre. It was fantastic being able to meet people with varying types of cancer but who also have the similar fears of recurrence and to be open about how I was feeling. Regardless of age or where you are in life, you’re still planning ahead. You must look forward to tomorrow. In addition, last year, a group of  friends and I went on to do a 5 km walk in support of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and I’m now hoping to volunteer with them.

Lorna Lightbody says: “We want to keep women well and support women to return to their best health when they have completed treatment. So don’t delay, please attend the national screening programme and if any woman notices abnormal bleeding, abnormal discharge between periods or has any other concerns please speak to a GP.”

Find out more about the cervical cancer screening programme.

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