Imagine being told at 25 years old that you have cervical cancer. That's what a Sioux Falls woman experienced. Now she wants to send a warning to women to take steps to protect themselves from one of the deadliest cancers in the world.
At 25 years old, Lindsay Parks had just gotten engaged, was enjoying time with her family and was excited about her future. That's when a routine pap test led to a shocking diagnosis.
"I didn't know it could happen to someone my age," Parks said.
Avera Gynecologic Oncologist Dr. Luis Rojas diagnosed Parks with cervical cancer.
"Since it was an adenocarcinoma of the cervix, it was a little more aggressive," Parks said.
The Sioux Falls woman decided to have a complete hysterectomy.
"I won't be able to carry a child, but I do have harvested embryos waiting for me when I do," Parks said.
Parks' sister has also volunteered to be her surrogate, but her story could have been a lot different if she hadn't had regular health screenings.
“That screening probably caught this at a very early stage as opposed to a more advanced stage," Rojas said.
One of the reasons why screening is so important is because many women don't have symptoms of cervical cancer until it's in its later stages.
"When there are symptoms, the disease is already in an advanced stage, but the most common symptoms patients see are abnormal bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharge and bleeding after intercourse," Rojas said.
To catch the disease early, Rojas recommends women between 21 and 29 years old get a pap test every three years. Women between 30 and 65 should be screened every three to five years. If you're at higher risk or have an abnormal test, you should be screened more often.
“I've actually had several of my friends call me and let me know that they heard my story. They went in for their yearly exam they'd been missing," Parks said.
That is exactly what Parks hopes to accomplish by sharing her story.
The main cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus or HPV. There's a vaccine that boys and girls can receive to build up immunity to the virus.