Sarah Hughes from Roseville, California tells the story about Britni Allison Berner, her very best friend, who was a young woman set to embark on a new career when she was diagnosed with Stage 1B2 adenosquamous cervical cancer on September 2, 2011 at the age of twenty six. Tragically, Britni lost her life to this disease just 10 months later.
Sarah believes that if Britni had had an HPV 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. For women ages 25-29 medical guidelines allow for an HPV DNA test that can identify risk. For women 30-65 years old, medical guidelines recommend Pap and HPV testing or that Pap screening be followed by HPV testing when the Pap is unclear. There are now FDA approved HPV DNA tests that could be used in front of the Pap, starting at age 25. A number of medical societies have accepted this test as a safe alternative.
What is most disturbing is that Britni had never missed a Pap test appointment, never had an abnormal Pap cervical cancer screening 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 types, HPV 16 and HPV 18. Adenocarcinoma of the cervix is most often caused by HPV type16 or 18. Britni was never tested for HPV. She never knew if she was positive for any of the high-risk types of HPV, 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, please visit https://www.beautifulbritni.com/, read her personal blog (www.theprincessandthec.com) 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.
If your life has been touched by cervical cancer in some way, we want to hear it from you. Your personal story can help us inspire others to get tested for cervical cancer or cope with the cervical cancer diagnosis.