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EDITIONS
Friday, 17 March, 2000, 17:18 GMT
A survivor's story: cervical cancer
Cervical screeners spot cancers early
The UK's cervical smear programme was set up to detect cancers early, and increase the chances of cure.

Cancer: the facts
Carole Sharp, from London is testament to its success - her cancer was spotted after a routine smear.

She told her story to BBC News Online.

Click here to listen to Professor Hilary Thomas talk about cervical cancer

"It was a routine check-up - I felt very well, getting on with my life. There wasn't a problem - I had loads of energy," she said.

"In fact it was a damn nuisance."

However, Carole was called back to undergo a repeat smear because her smear was abnormal, containing cells that could possibly mean cancer.


I was numb - my feelings were switched off.

Carole Sharp
Even the second smear was inconclusive: "I was then called by a doctor who said: 'We're still not sure, come in and we'll take a sample and we can take it to the lab and have a good look.

"It was from that sample that showed I had a tumour developing in my cervix."

Carole went to a gynaecologist, who explained that the tumour needed to be taken out.

Cells are looked at under a microscope.
"He never mentioned that magic word cancer, he just said there was a tumour.

"I was numb - my feelings were switched off," she said. "I was on hold. I couldn't take in what he was saying because I thought: 'he means cancer', and I was waiting for this word and he didn't say it."

Because she was unsure about the need for an operation, she decided to get a second opinion - which confirmed the need for surgery.

"I think all the way through the doctors were very positive because they had caught it in the early stages and it was a very small tumour."

The operation was a hysterectomy, in which the womb was removed to make sure all traces of the cancer were removed.

"At the end of my operation, when I was recovering from the anaesthetic, the surgeon came in to see me and said: 'You'll be pleased to know that was an 100% success'".


You had great mood swings, where you were on top of the world and then you were terribly depressed.

Carole Sharp
"I thought: 'that's a big word, I'm really taking that on board.'"

"Because I'm an older woman and I've had two children the hysterectomy didn't bother me - although about a year and a half later I felt the need for HRT and I went onto that."

Carole took four months off work, with strict instructions to rest.

"You had great mood swings, where you were on top of the world and then you were terribly depressed, and I'm a pretty even tempered person."

She returned to hospital once every few months to begin with - two and a half years later, she feels confident that the cancer will not return.

But her brush with cervical cancer was still a chastening experience: "I come from a family where there is no cancer, so I was very blase about cancer - thought it was going to happen to anyone but me."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Carole Sharp
Cervical cancer - in my own words

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