Marina Wheeler is a respected lawyer, author and columnist. She was appointed to the Queen’s Council in 2016 and specialises in human rights within public law. In 1993 she married the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson – a marriage that has played out publicly following the announcement of their divorce. She shared another intimate detail with the public today in an interview with the Sunday Times.

Wheeler told the Sunday times that she underwent surgery twice after being diagnosed with cervical cancer back in May.

Cervical cancer develops in a woman’s cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina).

It mainly affects sexually active women aged between 30 and 45, explained the NHS.

Cancer of the cervix often has no symptoms in its early stages.

“If you do have symptoms, the most common is abnormal vaginal bleeding, which can occur during or after sex, in between periods, or new bleeding after you have been through the menopause,” noted the NHS.

I know the take-up of smear tests is way down

Marina Wheeler

A cervical cancer screening is the best way women can protect themselves from the disease – a point that Wheeler emphasises in the interview.

The lawyer was alerted to the cancer after a routine check in January.

“I know the take-up of smear tests is way down,” she said.

Wheeler added: “I know they can save your life. If people are willing to listen, as they seem to be, why not say so? Why be afraid? I would urge other women to make the time and do the tests.”

According to the NHS, Women aged 25 to 49 are offered screening every three years, and those aged 50 to 64 are offered screening every five years.

“During cervical screening, a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix and checked under a microscope for abnormalities,” explained the health body.

An abnormal cervical screening test result does not mean person definitely has cancer, however, adds the NHS.

In the Sunday Times, Wheeler gave readers an insight into the moment she was diagnosed: “I left thinking, ‘That’s absurd. I have no time for this. Quite apart from everything else I have a book to write.’”

As a testament to to the importance of going for a routine check-up, Wheeler said she considered herself to be free of cancer and that the experience made her appreciate “the incalculable value of holding close those who you love and trust”.

What causes cervical cancer?

According to the Mayo Clinic, various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer.

The health site explained: “When exposed to HPV, the body’s immune system typically prevents the virus from doing harm. In a small percentage of people, however, the virus survives for years, contributing to the process that causes some cervical cells to become cancer cells.”

There are more than 100 types of HPV, many of which are harmless, added the NHS. “But some types can cause abnormal changes to the cells of the cervix, which can eventually lead to cervical cancer,” it said.

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