Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

'Finding out I had womb cancer was so hard, but I am now enjoying life'

Doreen's plea to others as Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month begins

Doreen and Ted Spence
Doreen and Ted Spence

A grandmother who survived womb cancer is appealing for women to "not be embarrassed" and go for a check-up about any gynaecological concerns as soon as possible.

Doreen Spence, a former district nurse, was speaking at the start of September for Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month, and said it was "vital" women go to see their GP.

In 2011 there were around 224 cases of womb cancer diagnosed in Northern Ireland.

And the average number of deaths per year from womb cancer from 2006-10 was 23.

In the UK 19,000 women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer every year and of these, 7,700 will die.

Doreen, now 70, was diagnosed in 2006 – the day before she was due to go on holiday with her husband.

The mother-of-five from Bangor had gone to her GP after listening to a radio programme discussing womb cancer.

"I was on my way in the car to visit my mother, who had breast cancer at the time," she said.

"I was listening to Women's Hour and I just thought 'oh, no –I have those symptoms'. I just got chills down the back of my neck.

"I had been suffering abdominal pain and had noticed bleeding in my underwear–I knew something wasn't right."

After going to her GP Doreen was finally diagnosed and told she had grade 3 cancer– the day before she was due to go on a cruise with her husband Ted.

"It was a terrible shock and it was incredibly hard telling my husband and children," she said.

Doreen underwent surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and brachytherapy.

"It was hard but I am alive and enjoying my life now. Even if your smear is clear and you are showing other symptoms like irregular bleeding or pain, it is so important to go and see your GP. It could be nothing at all but don't ignore it."

Doreen added: "It is important women are not embarrassed and just go and get checked – it could save their life." The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to succeed.

The most common symptom of womb cancer is abnormal bleeding from the vagina – especially in women who have had their menopause and stopped having periods.

About 90 out of 100 cases of womb cancer are picked up because of post-menopausal or irregular vaginal bleeding.

Anyone concerned about any aspect of cancer can talk things through with one of Cancer Research UP team of specialist nurses by calling freephone 0808 800 4040.

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