'I knew something wasn't right' - Cancer patient says women's healthcare has been 'overlooked'

Beverley 'Bev' Hewitt from Tonypandy was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in July last year. Credit: Media Wales

A mother is calling for more awareness of a cancer that can be passed on genetically, after being diagnosed with the disease following years of knowing that something was not right.

In July last year Beverley 'Bev' Hewitt, 56, 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.

As it stands, there is currently no standard or routine screening testing for endometrial cancer.

Bev's eldest daughter, Jodie Bartlett, launched a GoFundMe page so that the family can buy her a wig. Credit: Media Wales

Cervical screen or 'smear tests' 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.

Currently undergoing treatment for stage three C of endometrial cancer, Mrs Hewitt believes more needs to be done to ensure that women are made aware that the cause of the cancer could derive from genetics.

She said: "I knew that something wasn’t right a good couple of years ago.

"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."

Two years ago Mrs Hewitt went for a scan of her womb, which found no detection of abnormalities.

Last year she returned for another after getting a spot of bleeding and "not feeling right".

She said: "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'.

Mrs Hewitt said she had been "mentally preparing" for the news for a while.

"This year I knew they were going to find something and I was right," she said.

"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."

Since receiving her diagnosis last summer, Mrs Hewitt has undergone several treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

She made the decision before she started chemotherapy to have her hair shaven off with the aid of her husband, Anthony, and their four children and 12 grandchildren by her side.

"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."

Mrs Hewitt said she chose to shave her hair off so she could "control the cancer before it started controlling me".

She said: "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."

Having a high level of a hormone called oestrogen can increase your chance of getting womb cancer, according to the NHS. 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.

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.

Mrs Hewitt's eldest daughter, 37-year-old Jodie Bartlett, has launched a GoFundMe page so that they can buy a wig that is designed for individuals going through chemotherapy.

She said she wanted to help her mother get her identity back as her hair was her "armour".

"She has been so brave and strong but she just wants to feel like her again," she said.

"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 Welsh Government recently 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.

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."

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