A Cornish woman who survived cervical cancer is urging others to take up smear tests and life-saving injections.
Louise Blenkinsop was diagnosed with the cancer after she suffered a heavy bleed while taking a break from the contraceptive pill.
“I ended up having horrendous bleeding, fainting and anaemia, which at the time everyone put down to the pill withdrawal,” said the 31-year-old.
During a follow-up appointment in January last year, the Falmouth woman was referred to a specialist clinic, when she was diagnosed with cancer.
“My mum arrived and, when you have a cancer diagnosis, it’s like the cancer SAS coming in,” she said. “It was overwhelming.”
After undergoing three months of treatment and a further three months of waiting, she was finally cancer free.
It was only then that the former hotel manager found out just how bad the cancer had been.
“My tumour had been seven and a half centimetres,” she said. “That was quite scary.”
Ms Blenkinsop said the experience “completely changed” the rest of her life.
She had to give up her job as a hotel manager and cancel plans to go travelling. She can also never have children.
“Before all this I didn’t understand the importance of smear tests. I didn’t have any symptoms but I could have had the cancer for years.
“I just wish I could go back and do it differently. It is so important to get checked.”
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is responsible for causing cervical cancer as well as a host of other cancers. Like smear tests, the HPV vaccine is freely available on the NHS.
Ms Blenkinsop said: “I hadn’t heard of HPV before. I would probably never have been aware if this hadn’t happened to me.
Now Ms Blenkinsop has a new job as operational manager for the cancer charity Pants.
She said: “I am probably the healthiest I have ever been, I exercise every day.
“I just look after myself more because it is all about management now and making sure I stay cancer free. I take each day as it comes and just march on.”
Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged under 35 in the UK and its incidence is increasing.
According to research, almost half of Cornwall’s teenager girls have not completed the full course of HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer.
It is anticipated that from 2015 the vaccination programme in Cornwall will be moved to a school-based system, similar to most areas in England, to try and increase the level of uptake.