For anyone who can't quite imagine what cervical cancer can do to a woman, one grieving husband shared a devastating picture of his dying wife on Facebook to urge every woman to not ignore vital screenings. But be warned; while the message behind the image is incredibly important, the photo is extremely triggering and some readers may it find disturbing. Elliott Lowe shared the upsetting image on Facebook over the holiday to encourage women to get screened for cervical cancer, and for their loved ones to make sure they follow through on going to these appointments.
Lowe wrote that three days before Christmas last year, his wife Donna received her cancer diagnosis, but that it wasn't until the middle of January that they learned it had already spread through to the Lymph nodes in her pelvic area and had reached Stage 4B.
"Despite a very hard, but brutal fight against the cancer involving daily radiotherapy for six weeks and a chemotherapy session, a session which had to stop due to complications it was a diagnosis that was to claim her life," he wrote in the now-viral Facebook post. She died in early August 2017. Lower added:
I am sharing this with you today a year after her diagnosis to encourage everyone reading this to make sure that we take it upon ourselves to ensure that the special women in our lives in fact all women in our lives be they relatives or friends to attend their Cervical Screening (once called smears) and not to either miss them or forget to re-arrange.
He said that he couldn't remember why his wife had put off her appointments, but that he wishes he could "swap places with her or wish I’d dragged her to the appointment and re-arranged it for her." Lowe wrote that he has spoken to some women in his life and learned that some of his friends hadn't had a Pap smear — is a screening procedure for cervical cancer — in years. Lowe added that he was only sharing this devastating photo below to convince people to make sure the women in their lives all get screened for cervical cancer regularly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cervical cancer is treatable if caught early, which is what a Pap smear does. The test detects precancerous cells that are caused solely by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which means women should also ask for an HPV test, too. It's recommended that women start getting smears at 21 years old.
The problem is that many women stop seeing a gynecologist for a Pap smear when they stop having sex or are past their childbearing age, according to STAT News. But that's not the case. The CDC writes on its website:
For women aged 21 to 65, it is important to continue getting a Pap test as directed by your doctor — even if you think you are too old to have a child or are not having sex anymore. However, if you are older than 65 and have had normal Pap test results for several years, or if you have had your cervix removed as part of a total hysterectomy for a non-cancerous condition, like fibroids, your doctor may tell you that you do not need to have a Pap test anymore.
You don't need a Pap smear every year, according to the health agency. If your results are normal, your doctor might recommend another one in three years. For women over 30 years old, you can now ask for both an HPV test and a Pap smear, according to the most recent research from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. If both test are normal, you might not need another test for another five years.
As uncomfortable as a Pap smear can be, and as nerve-wracking as any screening for any disease is, it's worth going in and getting one. The smear is looking for pre-cancerous cells that still haven't become cancer yet but could be. So if you keep up with them, you really reduce your risk for cervical cancer altogether.
Younger generations are luckier than ever, since there's an HPV vaccine now, which can prevent a woman from ever getting the sexually transmitted disease in the first place. It's normally given to both boys (since they can transmit the disease) and girls around 11 or 12 years old, but can be given as early as 9 years old and until they're 26.
It's a series of vaccinations that need to be completed, and it's recommended that women who are vaccinated still get Pap smears, but it's a great tool when it comes to reducing the risk of cancer.
Lowe's method of raising awareness might have been jarring to see, since the picture is so alarming, but his point is an important one. No woman needs to die of cervical cancer. We have all of the tools to prevent this happening, it's just up to us to use them.
Lowe concluded his post, "Please share this post with your friends and ask them to do the same together we can beat cancer and save lives don’t let another family go through the pain we go through everyday."