Case Study: Natalie, cervical cancer patient

Royal Marsden patient Natalie, shares her story to raise awareness of the risks of cervical cancer and the importance of being diagnosed early.

Natalie, private care patient at The Royal Marsden
Natalie, private care patient at The Royal Marsden

Cervical cancer is preventable and curable if detected and treated early and the NHS estimates that 55,000 lives could be saved every year by diagnosing more cancers early. Cervical screening offers the greatest protection against cervical cancer with smear tests preventing 75% of cervical cancers.

Improving patient access to better and more rapid diagnostics is a priority at The Royal Marsden and Cavendish Square, our new dedicated Private Care diagnostic and treatment facility, fits into a broader strategic priority to diagnose cancer faster and earlier. Due to open this Spring, Cavendish Square will offer patients fast and direct access to world leading diagnostic experts in the heart of London’s most respected and world-renowned healthcare district.

During Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, Royal Marsden patient Natalie Hickton shares her story to raise awareness of the risks of cervical cancer and the importance of being diagnosed early:

In June 2015, aged just 32, Natalie Hickton was given the devastating news that she had cervical cancer. Within a few months, Natalie had undergone two operations. If Natalie had been diagnosed just a few years earlier she would likely have needed, a complete hysterectomy, leaving her unable to become pregnant.

“Thanks to the amazing research and technology at The Royal Marsden, I was able to avoid having a hysterectomy. Importantly, for me and my husband, this meant we could still try for children and I am now lucky to have two beautiful boys: Oliver and Joshua.”

Instead, Natalie was able to have fertility-saving robotic surgery. The Royal Marsden has become the most comprehensive centre for robotic cancer surgery in the UK, ensuring patients have access to the latest techniques and treatments. Using the da Vinci surgical robot, funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, surgeons were able to use 3D magnification to see Natalie’s cancer in much closer detail to identify any areas at risk of spreading.

Natalie was discharged one night after her operation and given the all-clear just four months after her diagnosis. It has now been five years since Natalie was given the all-clear. She is still having check-ups and smear tests regularly.

“For the first couple of years I would have them every three months, then this moved to six months, and now I have annual check-ups.

“Hearing that I had the all clear, I was elated. Thankfully I was one of the lucky ones; we caught it relatively early. I felt extremely supported by my family and friends, but I felt angry with myself that I hadn’t been for the routine check-ups earlier than I did.  Ever since, I have been a bit of an advocate to get tested.

“I have received constant care from my surgeon, Mr. Ind, the whole way through. When I fell pregnant, he said he would like to see me once I had turned 24 weeks as the early weeks of pregnancy can be quite risky.   

“I do owe Mr. Ind my life and giving me the ability to have two children out of it. I could have had a hysterectomy, but he knew that I was of an age where I would be thinking about having a family. He told me that they were going to do their best to give me the chance of having children.

“I cannot thank the team at The Royal Marsden enough. For anyone worried about having a cervical smear test, it takes about 30 seconds and it could save your life.”

The Royal Marsden is a centre of excellence for gynaecological cancers, offering a specialist research-led service for the staging and treatment of ovarian, cervical, endometrial, vaginal and vulval cancers. Our Gynaecology Unit is made up of a multidisciplinary team of experts who treat patients using the latest techniques and technologies in diagnostics, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.