Jo Murray had never heard of a sexually transmitted disease that could cost her life.
Five mothers in New South Wales had a sore throat and didn’t think about anything until they noticed the shape of the lump.
“The first doctor I saw said you were just fighting an infection. This is a prescription. Please come back seven weeks later and come see me,” she said.
“When I did a blood test, the results came back without anything.
“As soon as he gave me the script, I knew I couldn’t fill it and threw it straight into the trash when I got home.
“I was really angry and didn’t know why. I just knew it wasn’t an infection and I knew something was wrong.”
read more: Health experts warn of rising STI
The 46-year-old saw her regular general practitioner when he returned from his vacation in January last year and immediately sent her for further examination.
“I knew there was something wrong,” she said.
“I knew I needed to go further. Fear struck me and I thought I needed to get answers and tests.”
These tests revealed that Murray had stage 3 laryngeal cancer in the tonsils, groin, and left lymph nodes.
The cancer was caused by the human papillomavirus HPV.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease that is usually asymptomatic and disappears spontaneously, but can also cause serious illness.
It is the cause of almost all cases of cervical cancer, but among several other types, it causes 60% of cancers of the throat.
“Some people think it’s only related to cervical cancer, it’s not,” Murray said.
“I had never heard of it before I was diagnosed.
“There was no regular Papanicolaou stain test.
“In later years, you become sexually active, but you are unaware that there is this virus that you can infect.”
Ms. Murray said that sex and HPV should not be embarrassing for people to talk about.
“We all know about AIDS and herpes. They’re talked about a lot, but HPV for me isn’t, and it’s not talked enough,” she said.
“It’s very important not to be shy about talking about HPV. More people are needed to realize that sex is human and can lead to head and neck cancer.”
Murray Hosts Australia’s Largest Morning Tea of the Year To raise awareness and funding for the Cancer Council.
She wants others to know that you should always trust your instincts and get a second or third opinion if possible.
“Whenever you get a diagnosis like this, make sure you have a support group around you,” she said. “I was petrified every day, so I can’t thank my family for overcoming it.”
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