DUP woman Paula Bradley reveals how cervical cancer struck at age of 24
A Northern Ireland politician has spoken candidly about being diagnosed with cervical cancer in her early twenties.
Paula Bradley, the DUP's health spokesperson, said she wanted to encourage more women to get tested.
She complained of back pain when she was 24 to her GP, who suggested a cervical smear test, which tested positive for cancer.
Ms Bradley told the News Letter that she wants to tear down taboos about the condition, which may deter some women from going for the test.
She said: "I went to my GP with really debilitating, severe back pain that had been bothering me for a couple of months.
"My doctor suggested I should have a smear test as it had been a while since I'd had one.
"The doctor arrived at my house a couple of days later as it was on his way home from work.
"He said he needed to speak to me. After more tests I found out I had cervical cancer."
Ms Bradley said the shock didn't set in.
She added: "I was fine with the news - I was so young and naive, I didn't appreciate how severe this could be. As far as I was concerned I had two children and I was confident my life was going to go on.
"I certainly wasn't aware of how I could have contracted this disease - I didn't know it was something you could get through sexual contact. It wasn't talked about."
She said she now realises how fortunate she was.
"I didn't realise the severity of it, that I could have died if I hadn't gone to the doctor. I literally just had a backache," she added. "Even four or five years ago a lot of women didn't want to talk about this.
"Because it can be sexually transmitted, there is a bit of a stigma. I'd like to reduce the stigma.
"We should be talking about it - we live in a different world now.
"If telling my story makes someone think twice about having a smear test, then that is a good outcome."