A Blackpool woman who was diagnosed with cervical cancer after years of evading smear tests is taking on an epic swimming, climbing and cycling challenge in France to raise awareness of the need to be screened.
Andrea Mason is preparing to embark on a five-day challenge, The Sea to Summit Extreme, which will see the 38-year-old swim the English Channel, cycle 544 miles to Chamonix and then climb the highest peak in the Alps - Mont Blanc.
She has set up a blog and by sharing her health battles, which include endometriosis, adenomyosis, multiple fibroids and cervical cancer, she hopes to raise awareness of those conditions. And as she openly admits she avoided smear tests, she is determined to encourage others to make sure they attend screenings.
As her symptoms were masked by endometriosis, it was sheer fluke during treatment for her underlying health conditions that the cancer was detected.
Andrea said: “I have suffered from endometriosis from an early age and it impacted me significantly when growing up. I had multiple surgeries to reduce the symptoms and I ended up having a full hysterectomy.
“As part of this, everything, including samples of my cervix, are sent off to the labs for investigation and it was then that it was discovered that I had the very early stages of cervical cancer. I think the symptoms were masked as I had a lot of irregular periods and stomach pains associated with cervical cancer but also linked to my endometriosis.
“I had only ever had one smear test at the age of 25. After that, I didn’t stay on top of them. I was very fortunate that it was in the early stages and as I had already had a hysterectomy for my endometriosis, adenomyosis, that was my treatment.”
Andrea is now keen to highlight the importance of attending cervical screenings and seeking help if their period symptoms feel worse.
She said: “It is so important for women to go for their smears. It only takes seconds and there was no excuse for me.
“I am grateful it was detected early as otherwise I would have been oblivious and carried on until I was really sick.”
Andrea, who is a self confessed adrenalin junkie, is now focusing her energy into completing her extreme challenge.
She added: “I have always been sporty, but I never reached my full potential as I was battling with my endometriosis. Sport actually helped me as pushing your body gives a different type of pain that masks the pain from endometriosis.
“I want to challenge my own personal limits and promote awareness of endometriosis and cervical cancer. People don’t always see the hurdles and daily challenges I have often faced along the way. I want to send out a message that we should not let these things stop us. It doesn’t have to be extreme, but with the right plan and support, you can set out what you want to achieve.”