Mum's group is supporting cervical cancer sufferers

A GLASGOW woman is backing a campaign calling for more awareness of the symptoms of cervical cancer.

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Elaine Hastings runs a Glasgow support group for women facing a cervical cancer diagnosis. Picture: Mark Gibson
Elaine Hastings runs a Glasgow support group for women facing a cervical cancer diagnosis. Picture: Mark Gibson

Elaine Hastings, from Hyndland, is helping a national campaign by Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust - a charity which supports women and those close to them affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. It aims to increase awareness of prevention and early detection of the disease.

The 40-year-old, who also runs a support group in the city for women who have gone through diagnosis, was told she had cervical cancer in August 2009.

Now she is hoping to encourage more women to attend their cervical screening appointments after the latest statistics revealed the city had the lowest uptake of people attending their cervical screening appointments in Scotland.

Nearly one in three women in Glasgow didn't take the test last year, meaning thousands of women could be putting their lives at risk.

In 2009 Jade Goody, best known for appearing in the TV show Big Brother, died from cervical cancer, aged 27.

Elaine, mother to Olivia, 8, and Ethan, 5, was given the all clear in April 2010.

She said: "Cervical cancer is a preventable disease so it's absolutely shocking to know almost a third of women in Glasgow don't take up their screening invitation.

"A cervical cancer diagnosis can lead to invasive treatment that may leave long-terms effects including the possible loss of fertility.

"I would urge anyone to make the appoint-ment as soon as they are due.

"I would also urge women to seek medical advice if they are experiencing any of the symptoms.

"Luckily I got checked otherwise the disease may have been even more advanced than it already was."

Elaine was 37 when she was told she had stage 2a cervical cancer.

She said: "The year before I had started to experience intermittent bleeding which became heavier and more frequent.

"I did visit a doctor with concerns but after about six months was eventually referred for a colposcopy examination where I was told I had stage 2a cervical cancer - it was devastating.

"Luckily, after undergoing some rigorous treatment that included chemo-therapy and radio-therapy, I was given the all-clear in April 2010."

Elaine set up her support group in September, last year, helping women with cervical cancer connect with others that are affected.

It meets every month or bi-monthly, depending on numbers, at Glasgow University.

Elaine said: "At the time of diagnosis I had two children aged two and four, and while I was surrounded by my amazing family, it was still incredibly hard and it would have been great to talk to someone going through a similar experience.

"This is why I have set up a group for women in Glasgow; a place for them to get together and chat about whatever they need to. And if they want to come and simply have a coffee and listen then great."

The latest drive from Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust which aims to encourage women to take the test, coincides with Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, this week.

Robert Music, director of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "We are concerned about the number of women in Glasgow who are not having regular cervical screening tests.

"The cervical screening programme saves 5000 lives in the UK every year so it's imperative that women don't ignore their invitation as it could literally save their life.

"For those who face a cervical cancer diagnosis, early detection is key to improving survival rates and quality of life.

"It's important that women are made fully aware of all the symptoms of the disease, as well as feel confident enough to visit the doctor if they notice anything unusual going on with their body - whether this is a noticeable change in vaginal discharge, abnormal bleeding or pain during intercourse, they should not be embarrassed or suffer in silence.

"We're delighted Elaine is running this group as it means our face-to-face service can be extended to Glasgow and women in the area can get invaluable support."

n For more information about the support group, visit www.jostrust.org.uk/support

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