Choosing whether to have a hysterectomy after being diagnosed with cervical cancer is never an easy decision for a woman to make at any age.
Nevertheless, it was what 33-year-old Nicola Hughes from Bagillt faced when she was diagnosed with the disease in May 2022.
Results from a routine smear test earlier in the year confirmed Nicola had the high-risk human papillomavirus virus (HPV) and cervical cell changes.
She said: “I had my first smear at 25 years old and I should have attended my next screening three years later but I put it off.
“I wish I’d gone earlier – you always think it won’t happen to you and if I could turn the clock back I would have gone when I was meant to.
“I was encouraged to go by my friend and I’m so glad I did. After I received my results, I was booked in for a colposcopy for further investigations.
“The abnormal cells were cancerous but luckily it hadn’t spread to anywhere else in my body.”
Following discussions with her clinical team at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Nicola opted to receive a hysterectomy (removal of the womb) to reduce the risk of cancerous cells returning in her cervix.
Nicola, who is a mum to 13-year-old Oliver and six-year-old Ava, said it was the right thing to do in her circumstances.
“Making that decision to have a hysterectomy certainly wasn’t a straight forward decision, but it was the right one for me.
“I have two beautiful children and I feel my family is complete. It is more important to me that I am around for my children growing up so I wanted to do anything I could to reduce the chances of the cancer returning.”
Nicola received her surgery during September and was the first patient in Wales to have a hysterectomy using CMR Surgical’s Versius Robot at Ysbyty Gwynedd as part of the new National Robotic Assisted Programme.
Her surgeon, Miss Ros Jones, said: “We are very proud to have completed the first robotic hysterectomy at Ysbyty Gwynedd.
“Nicola has recovered very well and we are pleased to have this technology available to us to help us perform complex procedures precisely and accurately.
“The HPV test we now use in Wales is a more effective way of identifying people at higher risk of developing cell changes which can cause cervical cancer so is a real advance for the cervical screening programme.
“Going for your screening appointment could save your life. By attending your appointment you have the chance to prevent cervical cancer from developing, or picking it up at an early stage when it is more treatable.”
Nicola, who is doing well following her operation, is now encouraging others to not delay their smear test.
“I should have attended my screening appointment much sooner than I did and if I hadn’t gone when I did it may have been a worse outcome for me.
“My experience has shown how important it is to attend your smear test – it can save your life.
“I hope my story will encourage more people to attend their smear and not put it off – it is so important.
“I feel very lucky and I am extremely grateful to the team at Ysbyty Gwynedd for looking after me throughout my time under their care.”