Pontypridd MP Alex Davies-Jones has opened up about having most of her cervix removed after putting off a smear test.
The Valleys politician described fears over her "mortality" after her cervical screening test results came back as abnormal, leaving her in need of treatment to burn off cells which can develop into cervical cancer.
After a further biopsy she was left her "without the majority" of her cervix – something she says has "saved her life".
Writing for the i newspaper the 31-year-old said she had initially "put off" attending a smear test in 2015. She is now urging others to avoid the same mistake after receiving news after a test four months later that a further examination was needed after some worrying results.
The MP for Pontypridd, who has previously spoken movingly about undergoing IVF treatment after being unable to conceive naturally, said: "Fast forward to June 2016 and I was sat in my local hospital undergoing a colonoscopy after my initial test results came back abnormal and further examination was required.
"I was utterly terrified. Everyone had told me that a routine screening was nothing to be concerned about. It would just be five minutes of awkward conversation with the nurse at my local GP practice whilst taking my knickers off and trying to conceal the leg hair that I’d inevitably failed to reach whilst quickly shaving the night before.
"I didn’t ever think that there could be a chance that my cells would be ‘abnormal’ and that the next few months of my life would leave me terrified and constantly contemplating my own mortality."
During a smear test an abnormality in the cells that line the cervix can be detected. In Ms Davies-Jones' case CIN 3 was found – a biopsy result which the NHS says means "there's a high chance the cells will become cancerous and treatment to remove them is recommended".
She said: "The next few weeks were a complete blur. I kept a very personal diary to keep track of all of the medical jargon and to gather my own thoughts and feelings. I become obsessed with googling everything I could about abnormal cells, potential treatment and cervical cancer. I became a prolific poster and reader of the forums on the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website and found comfort in talking to others who had gone through, or were going through, exactly the same thing.
"The staff at my local hospital were incredible and almost immediately I underwent LLETZ treatment to burn off the abnormal cells from my cervix. I went to this appointment alone. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I will never forget the nurse who held my hand throughout and the conversations that we had about West End musicals, all while the doctor was busy lasering away in my vagina. I was meant to be in and out in an afternoon."
Following the procedure the politician said further treatment was needed as the abnormal cells were “embedded deeper and looked more challenging than expected".
From there Ms Davies-Jones underwent a successful cold knife biopsy, leaving doctors "confident" that the abnormal cells had been removed.
The result, however, has also left her without the majority of her cervix – something she has credited with saving her life.
She said: "The extent of the treatment meant that I was now without the majority of my cervix. Having this much treatment can come with risks, such as a slightly increased risk of premature birth. But by this point I really didn’t care. I just wanted it done. I was without the majority of my cervix, but my life was saved."
After the procedure Ms Davies-Jones continued to attend screenings every six months to check the abnormal cells had not returned.
She will now return for a further screening test in the near future, adding: "Don’t want to lie to you – I’m scared. I am both physically and mentally scarred by my previous experiences. Every time I get ‘the’ letter my body freezes. I go quiet and I have a little cry thinking about what I previously went through all while being terrified it will happen again. Nevertheless, I’ve done the right thing and I’ve booked the appointment."
You can find more information about cervical cancer here and about cervical screening here.