An accounts assistant was diagnosed with cervical cancer after being too embarrassed to go for a smear test until she was 32 years old.
Gemma Anderson, 34, who works for a firm of solicitors, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016 after having her first screening at 32. It is unclear if Ms Anderson was vaccinated against human papillomavirus virus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer.
Ms Anderson, from South Shields, had no unusual symptoms but was urged by her husband to have the check up.
After being diagnosed, she was forced to have her uterus removed and is considering starting a family with her husband via surrogacy or adoption.
Now in recovery, Ms Anderson is speaking out during Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust’s smear week campaign to encourage women to go for regular tests, adding there is nothing to be embarrassed about.
In the UK, all women who are registered with a GP after invited for a smear test at 25 years old.
Around 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the UK.
Gemma Anderson was diagnosed with cervical cancer after being too embarrassed to go for a smear test until she was 32 years old. It is unclear if she was vaccinated against HPV
‘I can’t take my knickers off in front of a stranger’
Ms Anderson, who imagined the smear to be much worse than it turned out to be said: ‘Friends had said it was nothing but you just think, “I can’t take my knickers off in front of a stranger,” The Shields Gazette reported.
After being relieved by how straightforward the procedure was, Ms Anderson was called to go to hospital for a colonoscopy and biopsy, with the results confirming she had cancer.
Ms Anderson said: ‘I was in shock. You think it will never happen to you but it does. It still doesn’t feel real when I think about it.’
Ms Anderson had no unusual symptoms but was urged by her husband (pictured) to have the check up. Now in recovery, she is speaking out to encourage women to go for smear tests
‘I’m slowly building my strength up’
In September 2016, Ms Anderson underwent a radical hysterectomy and lymph node removal by keyhole surgery.
The operation was a success and Ms Anderson, whose cancer did not spread, has been told she does not require further treatment.
She said: ‘I’ve just returned to work and am slowly building my strength back up.’
WHAT IS A SMEAR TEST?
A smear test detects abnormal cells on the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus from the vagina.
Removing these cells can prevent cervical cancer.
Most test results come back clear, however, one in 20 women show abnormal changes to the cells of their cervix.
In some cases, these need to be removed or can become cancerous.
Cervical cancer most commonly affects sexually-active women aged between 30 and 45.
In the UK, the NHS Cervical Screening Programme invites women aged 25-to-49 for a smear every three years, those aged 50 to 60 every five years, and women over 65 if they have not been screened since 50 or have previously had abnormal results.
Women must be registered with a GP to be invited for a test.
In the US, tests start when women turn 21 and are carried out every three years until they reach 65.
Changes in cervical cells are often caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be transmitted during sex.