“[I] survived cancer without ever realizing I had it,” says Georgia Tennant, wife of “Doctor Who” star David Tennant, who is urging other women to undergo regular Pap smears after her cervical cancer scare.
In honor of Cervical Screening Awareness Week in the United Kingdom, Tennant, 35, shared her personal experience of being diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2018. According to her blog, Tennant was going through a routine checkup when doctors discovered early signs of cervical cancer. Naturally, the news frightened her, but luckily, doctors caught it early enough and she was able to undergo surgery to remove the cancer before it began to spread.Read More
Now, Tennant is using her brush with the disease to urge more women to schedule regular Pap smears so if there’s signs of the cancer, it can be removed before it progresses. “What if I hadn’t made that appointment? What if I hadn’t responded to the 2 letters I received from our NHS telling me I was due a smear?” Tennant wrote. “Don’t be scared. Please get checked. Just, please.”
How Does A Pap Smear Detect Cervical Cancer?
During a Pap smear, your doctor will collect a sample of cells from your cervix (using a small brush or spatula). The cells are then examined under a microscope for abnormalities, including cancer and changes that could indicate pre-cancer.
Pap smears are especially effective at detecting cervical cancer early, but cervical cancer is unique in that it’s usually preventable with the HPV vaccine. Over 70% of cervical cancers are caused by the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). Other cancers are also linked to the virus, such as throat cancer, but luckily, the vaccine can help prevent 90% of those cancers from being diagnosed. Typically, the vaccine will be given to children before they are sexually active, seeing as HPV is transmitted through sexual contact.
Life After Cervical Cancer
Following a cancer diagnosis, many survivors have become advocates in spreading awareness around the disease and how to prevent a late diagnosis. This was the case for former NYPD cop Patti Murillo Casa, who was diagnosed with stage 2b cervical cancer three months after she retired. Now, Casa advocates for other women battling cervical cancer by educating them on the disease and teaching ways women can catch it early.
“It’s important for me to advocate, to help other women,” Casa says. “I share my story and I want them to learn from it. I want women to know that if you’re fighting this disease, you’re not alone. I’m here, and I want to help other women prevent this disease, that my generation will be the last generation to have cervical cancer.”