A Salford teenager has lived with pain for seven years as doctors struggle to diagnose her condition.
Ciara McGeoghan,19, has faced complications with her cervix since the age of nine when she got her first period unusually early.
At 12, she noticed a change in her hormones when she began growing a lot of body hair, started having irregular periods and intense cramps.
In Ireland, at 15, as Polycystic ovaries run in her family, her mum took her to the doctor where she had a blood test and was told:
“every girl kind of deals with this, come back if it continues”.
“Every girl kind of deals with this.”
At 16 she became sexually active, she described her experiences as unbearable.
However, she thought: “This isn’t an issue, it’s just something I’m not used to”.
But the pain did not go and she began experiencing post-coital bleeding which is non-menstrual bleeding directly after intercourse.
She waited for three years to see a gynecologist and never got an appointment.
Ciara said: “Whenever I went to school I’d know other girls that were waiting to get an appointment because of painful periods and they were never seen either.
“She was like, my doctor at the time,…I’m so sorry that they’ve never seen you, it’s probably because of how young you are.
“And I was just like, that shouldn’t have been a factor at all…if anything it should be more worrying…and at this point I still didn’t know I have Polycystic ovaries.”
She was then given a mixed hormone contractive pill, Jazmine.
Her periods got worse, she began having nose bleeds and the pains continued.
After going back to the doctor, they referred her to a gynecologist to which she expected to wait a year for.
After five months of being on the pill, she experienced more complications and went back to the doctor where she was given inflammatory tablets.
The time came for her to leave Ireland and fly to Salford for university.
Whilst every other university student looked forward to freshers week for the partying, the first thing Ciara did was register with the NHS.
She added: “Moving here was the best thing I ever did to be honest.”.
After her first visit to her NHS GP, her doctor said her condition sounded like Endometriosis or something more severe, then suggested doing an ultrasound.
“Great, that’s something” she thought.
She gave her new doctor the results from her last blood test, he straight away identified that she had a hormone imbalance.
Concerned, he asked “Did they not tell you that? You probably have polycystic ovaries.”
A month after moving to Salford, she had an internal and external ultrasound to look for any sort of abnormality.
She was then diagnosed with polycystic ovaries, however, that was just the beginning.
“I finally got an appointment for the gynecologist after all these years of waiting.
“My gynecologist kind of was like ‘oh you’ll probably just need another kind of contraception’, I was like I’ve been told that since I was 15, that is not the case then he said ‘Ok I’ll do the examination'”.
“I laid down and he did an internal exam just with his hand or whatever and I bled straight away and his face just dropped, I will never forget his face…I was terrified.
“He was like ‘You’re definitely going to have to have a colposcopy, something just doesn’t feel right…the nurse was comforting me and holding my arm, asking if I’m ok…I was 18, just moved away from home it was terrifying.”
Two weeks later she had her colposcopy.
Ciara said: “At 18 you think oh I’m not gonna have to have a smear test till I’m like 25 and my doctor was like I might have to take a smear test or a biopsy just to make sure.
“I was like oh that’s fine, not really knowing what a biopsy was.
“Then she says we’re definitely going to have to do a smear test.
“The other doctors, their faces were like curiously looking at it like that’s not right.”
After the biopsy she had to rest for four to six weeks, she couldn’t hoover, have a bath, be sexually active or use tampons for example.
“The doctor told me you’ll probably get your results in four to six weeks time but I’m just going to tell you now that it does look quite sinister so I’m not going to rule out cervical cancer.”
“It does look quite sinister so I’m not going to rule out cervical cancer.”
“I didn’t even know what to say…my friend was probably asking more questions than I was but at this point all I could heard in my head was cervical cancer.”
“I had my HPV vaccine so it wouldn’t make sense for me to have it like I was so confused but after that it was just a waiting game.”
However, her results came back clear apart from inflammation and benign cell growth.
“I googled it, which I know they tell you not to do, but it said it’s rare however it can turn cancerous if it’s not dealt with”.
And then Covid-19 happened.
“Everyone was going home seeing their families and stuff, leaving their halls, and I couldn’t go home because I was waiting for a hospital appointment.”.
Her appointment was postponed for two months as the hospitals were adjusting to the pandemic.
“I went to the hospital and they were just like we’re going to try and do a silver nitrate treatment on you instead of cryotherapy as it’s less invasive and I was like that’s perfect whatever you think is best because I just want it gone.”.
She said the treatment was painless but every time the tool would be inserted, she would bleed.
After six months she began experiencing post-coital bleeding again.
“I was like there’s no way my cells could’ve grown back that quickly, it got worse every time I had intercourse, then I was like ok I’m going to have to go back to the hospital.”.
In February of this year she had the appointment, her doctors said she needed to be seen urgently.
“So then I was in this state of panic like what’s wrong with me.
“I went to Salford Royal…I had a doctor come look at it, then the doctor was like I’m gonna get the consultant to come look because I think I can see something on your cervix.
“The consultant came in and was like ‘I can definitely see something in there’ and they were both looking whilst I was lying with my legs in the air like not this again, it was like second nature to me at this point.
“And the doctor that does colposcopies was like you’re definitely going to need another colposcopy and maybe even another biopsy”.
The doctors suggested that maybe the wounds didn’t heal correctly from the first treatment.
On a referral letter, it mentioned again that she could have cancer due to the abnormal cell growth.
“Two weeks after that, and I had so many deadlines at this point, I went back and had my next biopsy done, a year after my first. And they were like you could have cancer.
“I asked my doctor should I think about freezing my eggs at all.
“Should I think about freezing my eggs”.
“I didn’t have the same reaction to the first time I heard this, I was sad but there’s nothing I can do and to say that’s something you have to get used to at that age is crazy. At any age you should never have to get used to being told you could have cancer.
“It felt like one step forward and 5 steps back.”.
After her next set of treatments, they came back clear of being cancerous however there was still a lot inflammation.
The last treatment she had was Cryotherapy, just a few days ago.
“They were going to do this the first time but it’s more invasive and there’s more chance of scarring.
“They told me because of my age, they don’t want to do anything that will affect my chances of having a child.
“However, the more treatments you have on your cervix, the more chances of scarring which can lead to infertility, miss carriages, premature birth, plus I also have polycystic ovaries so my fertility could already be bad.”
If this treatment doesn’t work she will be offered cold coagulation.
“They said that is the last resort”.