When Heather Ryan noticed irregularities with her body — such as bleeding in between her menstrual cycles and after sex — she decided to take a trip to her general practitioner.
At first, Ryan, who lives in County Tipperary, Ireland, wasn’t too worried. After all, she was only 24 years old and seemed to be otherwise healthy. Her general practitioner recommended she come back for a pap smear — a test that checks for cervical cancer in women — when she was 25. At that time, women in Ireland could receive a free smear test as part of a national screening program called Cervical Check.
But a few months later, the bleeding worsened. Ryan became anemic.
Concerned, she returned to her doctor to discuss her symptoms once more. The general practitioner then referred Ryan to a gynecologist, who took biopsies of the tissue in her cervix.
Not long after, she was referred to a gynecology oncology specialist.
“I knew what was coming,” she recalled in a Facebook post this week.
“I was told I had cervical cancer,” she continued. “I needed an MRI to see if cancer had spread from my cervix. The results would decide what treatment I needed.”
Thankfully for Ryan, the cancer was confined to her cervix and she was told it could be removed with surgery.
About four weeks after she initially received the diagnosis, Ryan was cancer-free, she wrote, adding she was “so lucky” to have caught it in time.
The experience was the “most dramatic, emotionally painful experience of my life and no one should ever have to go through it,” Ryan said in the post, which she wrote in light of cervical cancer awareness week and so “girls under 25 that are not entitled to a free smear know what to look out for and for those who are over 25 be more aware of the importance of going for your smear.”
Symptoms of cervical cancer include vaginal bleeding, unusual vaginal discharge — which can be pink, watery or foul-smelling — and pelvic pain, especially during sex, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
“The more this is shared the more awareness it will create and hopefully more people will have caught it in time or before it even begins!” she wrote, encouraging women to get a pap smear.
“It could save your life!” she reminded followers.
Heather Ryan was not immediately available for additional comment when contacted by Fox News on Thursday.