Charlotte Ryan was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2021 at age 34, and she’s now two years cancer free following a successful trachelectomy operation, at The London Clinic.
This Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, Charlotte was keen to share her own story and encourage other women to prioritise booking in for their cervical screening.
“My diagnosis was very much a shock. In November 2021 when I went for my yearly health screening, covered by my employee health insurance, I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it. They do various tests, including an optional annual smear in addition to the NHS one I can get every three years, so I opted for that; especially since my health check was cancelled the year before, due to the pandemic.
When my results came back that I was positive for human papillomavirus (HPV) and had abnormal cells I was very surprised, since I didn’t have any obvious symptoms.”
Cervical cancer is often a silent threat, but it can be effectively managed and even prevented through early detection.
In the early stages, there may be no symptoms or signs, but later you may notice:
• Bleeding outside of your monthly cycle
• Bleeding or pain during/post intercourse
• Changes in vaginal discharge
• Pain in lower back/pelvis
“It’s a wake-up call for other women to go the doctor and keep up with regular screenings. If you miss one, don’t dwell on it, just make time to book it in.”
Charlotte was sent for an urgent colposcopy procedure to assess the abnormal cells and take a tissue biopsy, which confirmed the presence of pre-cancerous cells.
“They were quite confident that they could remove the early stage cancer cells via a LLETZ procedure/biopsy. But unfortunately, it was after this that they discovered the tumour was more advanced than they had first thought.”
“I actually went by myself to hear the results, because it was seeming quite positive at the time, so I wasn’t expecting more bad news.”
Following further tests and MRIs to grade the size of the tumour, Charlotte was referred on to The London Clinic to see Consultant Gynaecologist and Oncologist, Mr Arjun Jeyarajah.
Mr Jeyarajah was able to do a laparoscopic trachelectomy and a lymphadenectomy (to remove pelvic lymph nodes), instead of an abdominal trachelectomy, which meant faster recovery and a greater chance of removing all the cancer, as well as not having a large scar down her abdomen.
“For me, Mr Arjun Jeyarajah is the hero of my story. I went to see him in January 2022 and was booked in a month later. Two weeks after my operation he told me they had removed all the cancer, and that I didn’t need radiotherapy. It was such a relief.”
“Everyone I met at The London Clinic was amazing. I felt really welcomed, from the friendly receptionists, to my designated clinical nurse specialist who answered all my questions, as well as the offer of counselling. I think without all that wrap-around support when I found out my life-changing news, I would have really spiralled.”
For Charlotte, who was approaching her mid-thirties, the potential that the cancer could impact her chances of having children was a very real concern.
“My diagnosis came around a very kind of heightened point in my life, six months out from getting married. I was very conscious of the risks to my fertility.”
For some patients with cervical cancer, a full hysterectomy may be the only viable option due to the stage of the disease. Charlotte is grateful that having children is still on the cards.
“I have always said, I was really, really unlucky to get cancer, but I was really lucky at the same time; to have the specialists find it when they did, for it to be small enough to be able to have that operation and be able to preserve a chance of having children in the future.“
Charlotte is now on a schedule of regular check-ups, and will be kept within a patient pathway at The London Clinic for five years.
*Charlotte’s diagnosis and initial assessments took place at another London hospital, before she was referred on to a specialist at The London Clinic for her trachelectomy operation.
To take charge of your own health you can book in for an all-inclusive health assessment package at The London Clinic. An AllWomen screening package is available which includes vital tests such as cervical smears, breast exams, ultrasound assessments, mammograms for those over 40, and ultrasounds for under 40. Call 020 8108 9633 to find out more.