Common symptoms of headache, fatigue, bloating, cramping and general body aches are typically ignored by most people, as it is often lack of sleep, water, food or exercise that causes it.
For Carla Bradbury, the stomach pains she was feeling was a sign of something much more serious.
The 46-year-old didn't think anything of the pain in her gut when it came on.
"I was given a Sodastream for my birthday and thought that my stomach pains were coming from having too much fizzy water, so I didn't go to the doctors straight away," she says. "I also experienced spotting between periods "” which I thought was down to hormones."
After the stomach pains persisted, she went to see her doctor who examined her and gave her a smear test. Once the smear came back with an abnormal result, it led to further investigation.
After further testing, Bradbury's worst fears were confirmed.
Diagnosis and Treatment
"One of the gynecologists I saw put it down to endometriosis. I was going to have further tests, but in the meantime, they found out what it really was "” and it was cancer," she says.
After an MRI, doctors were able to confirm that she had cervical cancer at Stage 3B, which meant that the disease had spread from the cervix into the structures around it.
"My lowest point was when I read a report that said there was a 50% chance of long-term control "” meaning I had a 50/50 chance of survival," says Bradbury. "Because my tumor was so big (I later found out it was the size of a large plum) and the way it was attached to my pelvic wall, they couldn't operate on it."
So that meant they needed a different course of treatment.
"Instead, I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which thankfully treated it."
How Is She Now?
Five years later, Bradbury has now been given the all clear from her medical team and she has an important message to share with women across America.
Like many people, she hadn't been keeping up with her smear tests, and she's urging women not to make the same mistake.
"I did get regular letters to come for a smear test, but for me it was just finding the time to book in and make the appointment," she says. "But now I see how important it is."
Every year in the United States, nearly 13,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer.
There are no obvious signs of the disease in its early stages, that's why it's important for women to get regular tests done.
"Cervical screening saves thousands of lives each year by detecting changes in the cervix before they develop into cancer," says Sophie Lowes, a health information officer at Cancer Research UK. "Women aged 25-64, who are registered with a doctor, are automatically invited for screening."
For Bradbury her diagnosis and treatment changed her life.
"My cancer came as a total shock, but it has made me stronger and I'm not scared of anything anymore," she said.
"When you've faced the fear that you may not be here tomorrow, you just live for today. If you have cancer like I did, you've got the opportunity to work out what's really important. Although it's a terrible thing, there are people that suffer a lot worse."
Source: Good Housekeeping