Renee O'Sullivan is devastated she can no longer have children after having treatment for cervical cancer.
Renee O'Sullivan is devastated she can no longer have children after having treatment for cervical cancer. Mike Richards GLA091118RENE

Renee's life-saving message for Rockhampton women

RENEE O'Sullivan has a message for the thousands of local women at risk of dying from a preventable cancer.

Renee wants Rockhampton women to set aside time to be tested as part of Australia's cervical cancer screening program.

Federal health data shows half of female residents of our region are missing out on the vital cervical cancer screening test.

Just 50.4 per cent of Rockhampton women were tested in 2015-16, recently released Federal Health data shows.

The issue is particularly close to Renee's heart as she was recently diagnosed with the disease.

"I went in to see my GP in the Easter school holidays and she said I was due for a Pap smear," the 36-year-old teacher said.

"It was something I had always put off, but she did the routine smear and two days later I found out I needed a biopsy."

Further tests revealed Renee had cancer.

A hysterectomy soon followed, destroying her dreams of having children.

"I feel like I'm not a whole woman any more and I feel like I've failed my husband because I can't have children," Renee said.

"Now that whole part of our lives is gone - it's just been horrible."

If Renee had had Pap smears earlier in life, chances are the abnormal cells would have been found and treated before turning into cancer.

Women who are aged 25 and over should be tested every five years.

Australian girls and boys are given vaccinations against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer in women and throat cancer in men.

But adult women still need to have regular Pap smears to track any changes in the cells of their uterine cervix.

Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation chief executive Joe Tooma said cervical cancer was the fourth most common female cancer and it was "entirely preventable".

"The problem we have is that women are not taking the steps they need to take to make sure it is prevented," Mr Tooma said.

"The first is to make sure you are up to date with your cervical screening.

"The new way we test for HPV is much more accurate and they can identify HPV much earlier than in the past."

If there is not HPV present you don't come back for five years, Mr Tooma said.

If HPV and abnormalities are found, it can be treated straight away using freezing of the affected tissue.

The ACCF has a service to help women keep track of screening dates. Visit accf.org.au/getthetext for details.

 

Immunologist and former Australian of the Year Ian Frazer
Immunologist and former Australian of the Year Ian Frazer

Cancer could be wiped out in decades

PROFESSOR Ian Frazer is the creator of multiple vaccines for the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer.

The University of Queensland clinical scientist leads a research team dedicated to wiping out the disease - and the good news is it could be gone in the next 10 years.

The disease kills about 80 women a year in Australia.

"We anticipate that by the end of the 2020s, cervical cancer will have fallen below the threshold where it is counted as a common cancer and it will become a rare cancer," Prof Frazer said.

"By the end of 2030, it is anticipated that the only cases of cervical cancer in this country will be the women who have missed out on the screening program."

Professor Frazer said the groups most at risk in 30 years will be women living in rural and remote regions, indigenous women and migrant women who have come to Australia from a country where there are limited screening options.

Women who are aged 25 and over should be tested every five years.

"The women who get the cancer get it early in life," Prof Frazer said.

"The important thing is to realise this is not a test to see if you have cancer - it is a test to tell you if you are at risk of getting cancer.

"A positive test gives you the chance to have something done about it." - NewsRegional

The risk factors associated with cervical cancer are:

  • Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Smoking.
  • Weak immune system.
  • Family history.
  • Exposure to the synthetic form of estrogen called diethylstilbestrol.
  • Lack of regular cervical screening tests.

Symptoms of cervical cancer are:

  • Vaginal bleeding between periods or after menopause.
  • Pain during intercourse.
  • Excessive tiredness.
  • Lower back pain.
  • Bleeding after intercourse.
  • Unusual vaginal discharge.
  • Leg pain or swelling.

Source: Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation

News Corp Australia


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