Woman Told Cervical Cancer Symptoms Were Side-Effects Of Her Contraception
The importance of getting your cervical cancer screening has never been more prevalent as recent figures revealed the proportion of women attending the tests was at a 20-year low.
Alexandra Hodson from Kirkham, Lancashire sadly discovered she had the disease during a routine test; shockingly, she had reported symptoms in the months before, which had been passed off by medics as side-effects of her contraception.
The single mum, now 26, had been experiencing key symptoms of cervical cancer such as pain during intercourse, bleeding in between periods and after sex.
Alexandra visited her local doctor but was told by a nurse that her symptoms were 'normal' due to the contraceptive injection.
Her sister Nicola, 35, said: "Alexandra was diagnosed last year in June with the cancer. She hadn't spoken to the family about her symptoms, but she had all the red flags: pain during intercourse, bleeding afterwards and in between periods.
"Alexandra told her nurse that she had all these symptoms, but they said 'that's normal' because of the contraceptive injection she was having.
"She knew this wasn't normal and she felt so guilty after that she didn't question it further."
Alexandra then received a letter in the post inviting her for her smear test at her local GP which she attended. Her results told her she had abnormal cells and she was sent to Blackpool Victoria Hospital for a colposcopy.
The mum was then told to return in 12 months because she had precancerous cells - but still the hospital didn't feel it was urgent.
Not comfortable with waiting another year, Alexandra went straight to her GP who immediately felt a tumour. Next, an MRI scan confirmed the shattering news she had the disease.
Nicola explained: "Eventually Alexandra saw a female doctor and felt the tumour in the internal exam.
"She examined her and told her there and then, Alexandra was on her own. Alexandra phoned our mum, she was in shock."
A month after her devastating diagnosis in July, Alexandra began radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but a scan soon after found Alexandra's tumour wasn't responding to treatment, and carrying on with treatment might damage her other organs.
Nicola said: "They scanned her and they said the tumour looked 'swollen' on the scan.
"We all knew what that meant - bigger."
After many ups and downs - among finding out the tumour had shrunk, then sadly being told it had started growing again - the mum was told she would need an operation to remove her bowel, reproductive organs, part of her vagina and have a stoma bag.
However, this was quickly thwarted as surgeons warned the operation could not go ahead as the tumour was touching Alexandra's pelvic wall making it too dangerous to operate.
Nicola said: "The doctor told us they weren't going to go through with it. The scan showed that the tumour was touching the pelvic wall and they couldn't do the operation.
"Every time when you try and keep positive your told more news. We have to go and get on with it.
"Alexandra's gone down to a five stone eight and all her taste buds have gone.
"She loved garlic. Garlic was the one, but she can't taste it and she used to love garlic bread.
"They have given her shaker for calories, but she is really struggling.
"The pain is so bad, she can't walk and has to use a wheelchair when it's bad."
Currently, the family are trying to raise funds for a trial of immunotherapy, a treatment which helps the body fight the cancer by helping the immune system recognise and and attack cancer cells, after funding was denied by the NHS.
Nicola said: "I can't sit back and do nothing.
"Alex is up and down because she is struggling mentally. We've all struggled, we cope because we have to.
"We all have our own lives whilst trying to what we can for Alex and say we are fine, but we're not fine and we can't crumble.
"I love my little sister and I'll never give up fighting for her.
"At the minute this will give me a focus and I don't want cancer to be her final story."
You can donate to Alexandra's GoFundMe page here to get her the treatment she needs.
Featured Image Credit: Liverpool Echo/Alexandra Hodson