Courtney Gibbons, 24, was just 22 when she started noticing some strange symptoms, like spotting and pain.
A single mother deemed too young for a cytology test has told of her agony when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Courtney Gibbons, from Leyland, near Preston, began finding blood stains on her underwear in August 2021, when she was just 22 years old.
Assuming she was too young for cancer, the mother of two initially dismissed her strange symptoms as being due to her period.
Ms Gibbons, who works in a care home, worked part-time but quickly found her symptoms made everyday tasks unmanageable.
In October 2021, she began bleeding every time she lifted something heavy or coughed and developed “unknown” pain in her stomach, all symptoms of cervical cancer.
She even struggled to lift her three-year-old son Kamiy and five-year-old daughter Ariah without pain shooting through her stomach, prompting her to seek a medical opinion.
Mrs Gibbons’ GP wanted to have a chlamydia test, although Mrs Gibbons thought it was unlikely. Her test results were negative.
Medications prescribed to help control bleeding and pain had no effect.
Recalling her pre-diagnosis ordeal, Mrs Gibbons, who had been vaccinated against HPV, the main cause of the disease, said: “The constant stomach pain made it difficult to keep up with my busy life.”
Doctors told her she could have to wait 10 months to see a gynecologist for answers about the NHS.
His GP told him there was a private hospital nearby that occasionally had space for NHS patients.
Courtney Gibbons, pictured (center) with her children Ariah (left) and Kamiy (right), thought she was “too young” to get cervical cancer.
Desperate for answers, Mrs. Gibbons called and asked for a free appointment. Fortunately, the hospital had a cancellation and she was able to go the following week for tests and a cervical scan.
As Mrs. Gibbons was leaving, the doctor said, “I’ll see you again in a few weeks.”
However, she was hopeful that “it might be nothing,” adding that she was “too busy” to worry about reality.
A few days later, while she was with her two children, she was given the heartbreaking diagnosis of cervical cancer.
Recalling the moment she received the news, Mrs Gibbons said: “For a few seconds, I couldn’t process his words.”
Ms Gibbons was reportedly told by her doctor before her operation that the cancer could have been developing for years.
Mrs Gibbons pictured (left) after her operation to remove her uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, appendix and lymph nodes. Ms Gibbons, pictured (right) showing her scar, says her diagnosis was a “wake-up call” and believes that if she had had the test when she was in her early 20s, doctors They could have detected the cancer earlier.
Unable to tell Kamiy and Ariah the agonizing truth, he instead told them that he had a “little man named Frank” living in his stomach who was “making me feel a little bad.”
A month later, doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to Ms. Gibbons’ fallopian tubes and appendix.
WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?
Cervical cancer affects the lining of the lower part of the uterus.
The most common symptom is unusual bleeding, such as between periods, during sex, or after menopause, but other signs may include:
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Vaginal discharge with odor
- Pain in the pelvis
Causes may include:
- Age: more than half of the patients are under 45 years old
- HPV infection: which affects most people at some point in their lives.
- Smoking: responsible for 21 percent of cases
- Birth control pill: linked to 10 percent of cases
- Have children
- Family history of cervical cancer or other types of cancer, such as vaginal cancer.
Fountain: Cancer research in the UK
She was reportedly told that the cancer “must have been developing for years,” but she explained that she “didn’t have time to worry about it.”
Ms Gibbons had her uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and appendix removed in a four-hour operation in September 2022, a year after first detecting symptoms.
Doctors wanted to take a “less invasive approach,” but because the cancer had spread so much, “it was no longer an option,” he said.
Before the treatment, the surgeon commented that Mrs Gibbons was the youngest person they had seen with this condition.
Mrs Gibbons said: “When I woke up, there was no one at my bedside. “My whole family was busy with work or looking after my children.
‘Although I was groggy and sore, the medication relieved the pain.
“I had to stay in hospital for a week, followed by bed rest for another six weeks.”
Back at home, her children helped her with household chores, but she still had difficulty resting.
She said: ‘I was supposed to be on bed rest for two months, but that was a difficult rule to follow.
‘In just over a week, I was cleaning my house and cooking pancakes for the kids’ breakfast.
‘Although there were tears of pain in my eyes, I knew I had to keep going.
‘When it was time to go to school, I wrapped my stomach in plastic wrap to protect myself.
“What was normally a 20-minute walk now became a painful hour-long walk.”
But little by little he began to improve, his scar healed and his doctors told him he was in remission.
During Ms. Gibbons’ recovery, her children helped her with household chores, but she still had difficulty resting and accompanying her children to school. But little by little she began to improve, her scar healed and her doctors told her that she was in remission.
The 24-year-old is campaigning to lower the HPV detection age from 25 to 21.
Mrs Gibbons said: “Over the next few months, I came to terms with my new body. I had to learn to love my scar and accept that I could no longer have children.
‘It really affected my sense of femininity and I didn’t want to rule out more boys one day.
“Fortunately, the NHS offers some support regarding egg freezing and surrogacy.”
Her diagnosis was a “wake-up call” and she believes if she had been tested when she was in her early 20s, doctors could have detected the cancer earlier.
Now, almost a year since his operation, he has started a campaign to reduce the age of HPV detection to 21 years.
Women aged 25 to 64 are invited to have regular Pap smears under the NHS Cervical Screening Programme. Its goal is to detect abnormalities within the cervix that, if left untreated, could develop into cervical cancer.
WHAT IS A PHARMACY TEST?
A smear test detects abnormal cells in the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus from the vagina.
Removing these cells can prevent cervical cancer.
Most test results are clear; However, one in 20 women shows abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.
In some cases, they need to be removed or they may become cancerous.
Cervical cancer most often affects sexually active women between 30 and 45 years old.
In the UK, the NHS Cervical Screening Program invites women aged 25 to 49 to have a smear every three years, those aged 50 to 64 every five years, and women aged over 65 if they have not had a smear. been screened since age 50 or have had abnormal results before. results.
Women must be registered with a GP to be invited for a test.
In the US, testing begins when women turn 21 and is performed every three years until they reach age 65.
Changes in the cells of the cervix are often caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can be transmitted during sexual intercourse.