A YOUNG woman fighting cervical cancer has said she had to demand the tests needed to spot the condition.
Eilidh Chavasse, of Alnwickhill, was just 19 when she was diagnosed in May.
She was too young to be eligible for the screening used to detect early signs of the disease, but, convinced that something was wrong, she persuaded her GP to carry out further tests – confirming her worst fears.
She said: “This diagnosis came after months of doctors appointments and tests and it felt like I was getting nowhere.
“At 19 I was too young to be offered a routine smear test. However, I demanded one and, eventually, the doctors agreed but told me that the chance of anything being found were extremely slim. This is when the diagnosis came.”
She has since had an operation to remove the tumour and radiotherapy to kill off the cancer cells. The retail worker now attends hospital every two weeks for chemotherapy, though she was initially reluctant to undergo the treatment.
She said: “My first thought was that I couldn’t go through with it as I’d lose my hair. My hair has always been important to me – as I’m sure it is to any girl. I quickly changed my mind and realised my hair was a very small price to pay for this life-saving treatment.”
Instead, she shaved her head and took part in the Teenage Cancer Trust’s Hair4U scheme, involving award-winning hairdresser Charlie Miller. The scheme provides a real-hair wig free of charge for 13- to 24-year-old cancer patients.
Eilidh’s colleagues at the Nike Factory Store at Straiton Retail Park and nationwide have also rallied round to support her, helping to raise money for the charity.
Now she is set to receive her own wig, which she said helped give her the confidence to shave her head.
She said: “This has made losing it so much easier. I’d never have even considered it if I was not getting a wig.
“Having cancer is a very stressful and trying time. I have had many bad days where I do not feel that I can face what is ahead. However, the support of my family, friends and work – and knowing about this charity – has made it that bit easier.”
So far, Eilidh’s JustGiving page total shows she has raised nearly £3000.
Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, urged women to be aware of the symptoms of the disease.
He said: “Although cervical cancer is extremely rare in women under 25, it is crucial that all women are aware of the symptoms and visit their GP immediately should they experience any.
“For women under 25 who present with abnormal bleeding, the most common symptom of the disease, there is an NHS pathway for GPs to follow which aims to result in a faster route to diagnosis.
“There is still a need to encourage a greater awareness of the symptoms for cervical cancer amongst women of all ages so that they can be diagnosed early.”
Other symptoms can include pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis, pain during sex and abnormal vaginal discharge.