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The Importance of a Yearly Physical, From the Perspective of a Cervical Cancer Survivor

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I’m a 36-year-old cervical cancer survivor, currently having anxiety about my upcoming yearly physical. It’s my first physical since being released from my oncologist’s care after five years. I’m not nervous for the actual physical, but I am extremely anxious about what could possibly be found.

I had the most important exam of my life when I was 30. I was pregnant with my daughter and at 30-weeks I started bleeding. My obstetrician did an exam to make sure everything was OK. The lab work and ultrasound came back normal, but during the exam he found a polyp. He removed it and sent it to pathology. The next day I got a phone call telling me I had large-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma of the cervix  — a very rare and aggressive cancer.

Two weeks later, I gave birth to my daughter via C-section. Immediately after that, I underwent a radical hysterectomy and then four rounds of chemotherapy. I am extremely lucky that my cancer was found so early.

I have read many articles about some women who feel uncomfortable about having physicals, so they choose to skip it or put them off for as long as possible. I totally get the uncomfortable part of the physical. No one likes their private parts to be exposed under the bright lights of an exam room. But I will take the uncomfortableness of the open gown and the anxiety of what could happen at a physical any day over having cancer again.

At a yearly physical not only are you having a breast and gynecological exam, you should also be able to have some extra time with your doctor to discuss any moles, lumps or bumps that seem suspicious to you and maybe have lab work done. There are so many things can be addressed at a physical and hopefully be resolved… don’t miss that opportunity.

If you are feeling that you absolutely cannot handle having a yearly physical consider talking to your doctor about your fears. Maybe you can come up with a plan to ease the anxiety and fears of it being painful. If insurance or financial stress is hindering you from the annual exam, try researching to find available programs that might be able to help ease the financial burden.

Like I said before, I understand these types of exams are uncomfortable. But you know what else is uncomfortable? A hysterectomy, a port being placed, chemo, losing your hair and having to visit your baby in the NICU. Take it from me, a 10-minute exam is way less uncomfortable then all of the things that can come with a cancer diagnosis. I have no family history of cancer and never had an abnormal pap. A cancer diagnosis was the least of my worries, but now I know it can happen to anyone and early detection is key.

Photo credit: XiXinXing/Getty Images

Originally published: February 4, 2019
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