JADE Goody was just 27 when she died of cervical cancer – just seven months after being diagnosed.
The mum-of-two feared something wasn’t right for four years but by the time doctors realised it was too late.
It had spread to the outside of her uterus and reduced her chances of survival from 50 per cent to zero.
The first of a three-part series commemorating the Big Brother star and retelling her very public battle with cancer a decade on airs on Channel 4 tonight.
Jade Goody’s story is unique because of how rare it is for women of her age to die from cervical cancer.
Docs had first found abnormal cells when she was given a smear test at 15 after contracting the human papilloma virus (HPV) before she was even sexually active.
The cells were removed, but two years later they had returned and she needed an operation to burn them off.
Following the birth of her second son in 2004, yet more abnormal cells were found but docs were against removed any more of her cervix in case it became too short to carry future pregnancies.
When Jade Goody received a letter telling her to come in to have abnormal cells removed for a fourth time, she ignored it through fear.
Speaking to Heat magazine at the time, she said: “When I heard I had more abnormal cells I thought, ‘this is the fourth time I’ve been told I need to have the same operation now’.
“Once you have them burnt off they shouldn’t come back, I was too scared.”
But it was in 2008, while appearing on the Indian version of Big Brother that she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Despite Jade’s very public battle, the number of women attending screenings has dropped to the lowest level since records began in 1995 – with nearly a third of women in the UK risking their lives by skipping their smear test.
Early diagnosis is key when it comes to any form of cancer as it can increase the chance of survival – and cervical cancer is one of them.
Catch it at the earliest stage – stage 1 – and you have the highest chance of surviving it.
But get diagnosed at stage 4, and you’ve only got a 5 per cent chance of surviving five years or longer.
That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that you know what changes to look out for and get them tested ASAP.
Not all women diagnosed with cervical cancer have symptoms, which is why it’s really important to attend cervical screening (smear tests) when invited. But, whatever your age, it’s equally important to be aware of cervical cancer symptoms,” Imogen Pinnell, health information manager at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust told The Sun.
Early signs can include:
- Abnormal bleeding (during or after sex, between periods and also post-menopause)period
The most common and earliest sign of cervical cancer tends to be irregular bleeding.
It happens when the cancer cells grow on the tissue below the cervix.
It’s an especially alarming sign in postmenopausal women who no longer have periods. There’s no age limit to developing cervical cancer.
- Unusual vaginal discharge
Everyone’s discharge is different, so it’s a case of knowing what is normal for you.
If you find that the colour, smell and consistency has changed, then that’s something you really need to have checked out.
When cancer lacks oxygen, it can cause an infection which leads to strange smelling discharge.
- Discomfort or pain during sex
Pain during sex can be a sign of a number of different issues, but one is cervical cancer.
Because the disease often comes with no symptoms, pain during intercourse is one of the key indicators. It can be a sign that the cancer is spreading to surrounding tissues.
- Lower back pain
It could be down to you straining something in the gym, or it could be a warning sign that something’s wrong with your reproductive organs.
Persistent pain – just one off twinges – in the lower back, pelvis or appendix can be a symptom of cervical cancer.
- Unintended weight loss
While effortless weight loss might sound like the answer to many of our prayers, it’s never a good sign if it happens seemingly without cause.
A loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss tend to be signs that the body isn’t working properly – it’s trying to conserve energy. If you notice that you’re not eating as you normally do, go to your GP.
As the disease progresses, it can also result in:
increased need to pee
blood in pee
bleeding from the bottom
lower limb swelling
What to do if you do experience any of these symptoms
If you experience any of these (do not wait for all of them to appear, just one is enough!), then make an appointment to talk to your GP immediately.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a recent smear test or not – or if you’re under 25 and haven’t been offered one yet. Although it’s rare, cervical cancer can strike earlier.
Remember, cervical cancer is rare and all of these symptoms are often caused by something other than cancer,” Imogen says.
“But, if you have any symptoms, it is important to get checked by your GP straight away.”
Often, women don’t have any symptoms early on and that’s why it’s so absolutely crucial that you go for a regular smear.