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Wales Online
Wales Online
Branwen Jones

'I knew that something wasn’t right for years – now I have stage three cancer'

A cancer patient has said she feels women's healthcare has been "overlooked" following her diagnosis after years of knowing that something was not right. In July last year Beverley 'Bev' Hewitt from Tonypandy in Rhondda Cynon Taf was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, which is also known as womb (uterus) cancer.

The disease develops when malignant cells form in the tissues of the endometrium, which is the lining of the womb. Beverley is currently undergoing treatment for stage three C of the cancer. As it stands there is currently no standard or routine screening testing for endometrial cancer unlike cervical screen or 'smear tests' that are used to detect potentially precancerous and cancerous processes in the cervix which could lead to cervical cancer. But endometrial cancer can be detected through a scan of the womb, a biopsy, or blood tests.

According to the NHS one of the main things that can increase your chance of getting womb cancer is having a high level of a hormone called oestrogen. But you might also be more likely to get womb cancer if you have diabetes, a family history of bowel, ovarian, or womb cancer, or inherited a rare gene that causes Lynch syndrome.

Read more: Unions get tough with NHS bosses as massive impact on health services expected in next week's strike in Wales

Around three to four in 100 women with endometrial or womb cancer have Lynch syndrome, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Research. Lynch syndrome is a type of inherited cancer syndrome associated with a genetic predisposition to different cancer types.

An estimated 175,000 people have Lynch syndrome in the UK but fewer than 5% of individuals know they have the condition according to the NHS. Bev said more needs to be done to ensure that there is a routine screening and that women are made aware that the cause of the cancer could derive from genetics.

"I knew that something wasn’t right a good couple of years ago," the 56-year-old said. "It started off with everyone putting it down to the menopause. I was about 46 when the symptoms started and I was given the Mirena coil to deal with the menopause but there was still something wrong."

Bev Hewitt (centre) and her family during her son's 40th birthday (Jodie Bartlett)

Two years ago Bev went for a scan of her womb, which found no detection of abnormalities. She said: "Then last year I was getting a spot of bleeding and wasn't feeling all too good. I went for another test.

"When I returned to get the results two weeks later the hospital was packed and my husband waited for me in the car. I told him: 'This is not looking good, I am the last one waiting'. I went into the room. The doctor said: ' Do you know why you are here?' and I said: 'Yes, are the results back?' and he said: 'Yes'. I said: 'you’ve found something haven’t you?' and he said: 'Yes, I’m sorry to say you have cancer'.

Bev and her husband Anthony before she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer (Bev Hewitt)

"I had been mentally preparing for this for a while. This year I knew they were going to find something and I was right. I had told my daughters for years and years that they had been missing something. This has been overlooked for a lot of women. I’m so angry about it because at the end of the day this could be genetic so it doesn’t just affect me – it could affect my children and grandchildren. I just want to save my children and grandchildren’s lives."

Following her diagnosis last summer Bev has undergone several treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy. She said she wants to remain positive and made the decision before she started her chemotherapy treatment to have her hair shaven off with the aid of her husband, Anthony, and their four children and 12 grandchildren by her side.

Bev's husband, Anthony, shaved off her hair just before she started her chemotherapy treatment for endometrial cancer. Their daughter, Jodie Bartlett, described the moment as very emotional. (Jodie Bartlett)

"I’ve been fine about it but it has been hard for my husband and for the kids," she said. "I’m very easy going and mentally strong – I have rarely cried over it. You can go either way about it – either roll up into a ball or just carry on with life because it’s not just for me, I’m doing it for my kids and my grandchildren. I’m 56 and I want to live.

"I am tired after treatment – it's a feeling you can't explain really. I'm always in bed after treatment and can't see much of my grandchildren due to the fact that I'm vulnerable and they could potentially be bringing something in. That was especially difficult during Christmas.

"I decided to shave my hair off so I could control the cancer before it started controlling me. I wanted all my family to be there because I didn’t want them to see me one day without any hair and I also didn’t want to go through that process of losing my hair in chunks. I wanted to deal with it and I wanted my family to be there. I love my hair – it has always been something I’ve been proud of. I look in the mirror and I miss my hair. I miss being me."

Bev, right, with daughter Jodie Bartlett (Jodie Bartlett)

As a result Bev's eldest daughter, 37-year-old Jodie Bartlett, has decided to launch a GoFundMe page so that they can buy a wig that is designed for individuals going through chemotherapy. According to Jodie, who has done extensive research into these wigs, they can cost around £1,600 and upwards.

Jodie and the family were aiming to reach £2,000 but within 24 hours of launching the GoFundMe page they had hit target. As of Friday, February 3, the fundraising has reached £2,315. Jodie explained that she started the fundraising in order to help her mother get a part of her identity back.

"I am setting this up to make my mother happy and to feel herself again," she said. "Anyone who knows my mother knows she loved her hair – her hair was her armour. She has been so brave and strong but she just wants to feel like her again.

"The wigs we have in mind let the person sleep in it and wash it – you don't actually feel like you are wearing a wig. The response we have received through the GoFundMe page has been overwhelming. It's so great to see our community support our family, but especially our mam, like this."

Recently the Welsh Government announced that there was an urgent need to improve cancer services in Wales. It comes after NHS Wales published a three-year improvement plan, which outlined how health board and trusts in Wales could plan and deliver their cancer care that will improve cancer patient outcomes and reduce health inequalities. You can read more about the improvement plan here.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We encourage people to come forward with any concerns about cancer and we are investing heavily in new diagnostic equipment and the training of additional diagnostic clinicians. As part of the recently-announced cancer improvement plan we are rolling out rapid diagnostic centres to provide a referral option for people presenting to the NHS with unclear symptoms but the GP suspects cancer."

WalesOnline has approached Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board for a comment.


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