A YOUNG woman from Farnham has backed Cervical Cancer Prevention Week after being diagnosed with the disease aged 24.
Hannah Baker (pictured) has spoken for the first time about her experience in a bid to raise awareness of the symptoms of the disease and the support available.
Hannah was diagnosed in March 2016. Since the previous June she had attended a number of appointments and undergone surgical procedures at Frimley Park Hospital for abdominal pain and bleeding – symptoms she had experienced for more than a year.
She had not undergone a smear test because she was under 25 – the age when automatically registered on the NHS’ cervical cancer screening programme.
Hannah has since instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate if more could have been done to diagnose her cancer sooner.
Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust carried out an internal investigation. It recommended that any woman, regardless of age, should have a biopsy before undergoing treatment to ease symptoms of bleeding and pain.
Chloe Morgan, expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Hannah, said: “The past couple of years have been have been incredibly difficult for Hannah as she attempted to come to terms with her diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
“While we are pleased the trust has made its own recommendations following an internal enquiry into Hannah’s care, she still has a number of questions and has asked us to help her obtain answers for her.
“Hannah has shown great bravery in speaking about her experience and we join her in supporting Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.
“It is important to remember cervical cancer is a treatable disease with a good long-term prognosis when it is diagnosed early. Therefore women need to attend regular smear appointments and be aware of the symptoms, and if needed, seek medical advice at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Hannah was referred to Frimley Park Hospital for an ultrasound which was carried out in July 2015. That August she visited the hospital’s A&E department with heavy bleeding as well as lower back and lower abdominal pain.
On November 2, 2015, she underwent a procedure designed to alleviate her bleeding and pain. Over the coming months Hannah continued to experience symptoms.
She attended A&E at Frimley Park on February 25, 2016, Following further examinations, a biopsy was taken at the end of March which confirmed she had cervical cancer.
Hannah underwent chemotherapy that June. She has been in remission since November 2016.
She said: “I was totally lost for words when I was told I had cancer. Many people may think that women under 25 cannot get cervical cancer, and although it is rare, I am proof they can.
“The past couple of years have been a real struggle, not only because of the physical effects of chemotherapy but also the emotional side. Nothing can prepare for being told you have cancer, so coming to terms with that has been really difficult. The support from my friends and family really helped me through some difficult times.
“I am still concerned about what the care I received but I just hope that by speaking out people are aware of the symptoms of cervical cancer and realise early detection is key to beating the disease.
“It is so important people seek medical advice if they feel they have some of the symptoms.”
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is organised by charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and ran from January 21 to 27. For more information visit www.jostrust.org.uk
A spokesman for Frimley Health said: “We fully support Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and would encourage everyone to raise awareness of the disease and attend cervical screening when invited.
“We cannot comment directly on this case while it is subject to legal proceedings.
“Whenever a matter of concern is brought to our attention we ensure a prompt investigation takes place and all resulting actions are implemented as quickly as possible.”