Sarah believes that if Britni had had an HPV DNA test as part of her regular screening program, she might still be alive today. Sarah shares this difficult story about Britni in the hope that other young women will know to ask their healthcare providers to use all the prevention tools available, in order to prevent cervical cancer from happening to them. Cervical cancer screening usually starts when a woman reaches the age of 21, and continues through the age of 65. Clinicians can choose from a few different test options (FDA approved, or CE mark) to determine a woman's risk. Depending upon her age, medical history and other factors, cervical cancer screening guidelines may allow for HPV testing, Pap cytology (sometimes also referred to as a Pap “smear”) or a combination of both HPV and Pap cytology.
What is most disturbing is that Britni had never missed a well-woman exam, never had an abnormal Pap test result, and had had all three doses of the Gardasil HPV vaccine. Britni thought she had done everything she could as a young woman under 30 to protect herself from cervical cancer. After her diagnosis, Britni went through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy and despite her ongoing rigorous treatment, the cancer progressed. She died ten months after her diagnosis on July 19, 2012, a month and a half after her twenty seventh birthday.
Cervical cancer is caused by a persistent high risk HPV infection. HPV causes 99% of cervical cancers, and 70% of cervical cancers are caused by the two highest risk HPV types, HPV 16 and HPV 18. Adenocarcinoma of the cervix is mostly associated with HPV type 18, and can be more difficult to detect by Pap cytology. Britni was never tested for HPV. She never knew if she was positive for any of the high-risk HPV types, even though this type of test was available and could have been run on the same sample collected for her Pap test.
To learn more about the joy of Britni and the legacy she has left behind for other young women facing cervical cancer, visit this website, read her personal blog and help share in her vision and compassion by nominating someone who you think could be comforted by the gift of a "swag bag" filled with Britni's favorite things she discovered during the course of her treatment.
Personal Story told 2015.