I’m a nurse – here’s the tiny symptoms I noticed just before I was diagnosed with cancer

A NURSE said it was a “shock” to be diagnosed with cancer after only noticing “tiny symptoms”.

Tracy Warrington, from Swansea, Wales, only recognised something could be wrong thanks to her work as a school nurse. 


Tracy Warrington said she had “tiny symptoms” before her cancer diagnosisCredit: MEDIA WALES
Tracy, a school nurse, had extensive surgery to rid her womb cancer


Tracy, a school nurse, had extensive surgery to rid her womb cancerCredit: MEDIA WALES

She told Wales Online: “I knew the symptoms I was getting were not right. 

“They were tiny symptoms, not very much at all.

“But I knew from my experience in working in different places, such as family planning, that something wasn’t right.”

Tracy said she recalled a colleague she used to work with in family planning warn of a significant cancer symptom in older women.

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“I heard her voice in my head one day, recalling her saying out loud, not just to me – if you ever get any bleeding after menopause do not ignore it,” Tracy said.

Tracey, whose age was not reported, was post-menopausal, meaning she hadn’t had a period for at least one year.

The NHS says any bleeding from the vagina after the year-mark has passed should be investigated by a GP, even if it is a small amount, there are no other symptoms and it only happened once.

Causes include inflammation in the vagina and polyps (growths in the womb). 

However, less commonly, it could be ovarian or womb cancer – diagnosed in 7,500 and 9,700 women per year in the UK, respectively. 

In Tracy’s case, tests in January revealed that she had endometrial cancer – the most common type of womb cancer that starts in the lining.

A practice nurse referred her as soon as Tracy mentioned her symptoms.

The grandmother said: “I have a healthy lifestyle; I’m not overweight, I exercise, I eat healthily, I only drink small amounts, cancer doesn’t run in my family, so my only real risk factor was my age.

“I have never really had any problems; I gave birth to my two sons easily enough, and I never had any real issues with the menopause. 

“So it was a real shock to be diagnosed.”

Endometrial cancer starts when cells in the endometrium (the inner lining of the womb) grow out of control. 

Tracey’s surgery involved having her uterus, ovaries and cervix removed, followed by localised radiotherapy. 

Doctors found that the lining of her uterus was almost five times thicker than it should be.

“It is supposed to be around 4mm and parts of it were as thick as 22mm,” Tracey said.

The dedicated NHS worker, who has worked for Swansea Bay University Health Board for more than 20 years, had to wait six weeks for her surgery, which she said was the hardest part.

She said: “I was scared beforehand. I’d never had any surgery or been ill before.

“For about two weeks [after] I felt a bit sore, but no real pain. It didn’t really affect my day to day living much, I just couldn’t run for a bit and had to walk a bit slower.

“The biggest thing is negotiating the emotional impact, and that is ongoing. I am so grateful to the way I have been looked after.”

Tracey – who raised £300 for the gynaecology department at Singleton Hospital – said she wants others to be aware of symptoms.

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The most common sign is bleeding from the vagina that is abnormal – for example heavy bleeding, blood-stained discharge, between periods or after the menopause. 

Around 90 per cent of endometrial cancer diagnoses are reported due to post-menopausal or irregular vaginal bleeding, the Eve Appeal says.

The 5 gynae cancers: The facts

These are the stats on the five gynaecological cancers, according to the Lady Garden Foundation:

Cervical cancer: Around 3,100 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year and it’s the most common cancer in women under 35 years old.

Key symptoms: in most cases unusual bleeding, however it may not cause any symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage.

Ovarian cancer: Over 7,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK each year. This makes ovarian cancer the 5th most common cancer in women, after breast, lung, bowel and womb cancer. More than eight out of 10 ovarian cancers occur in women over the age of 50.

Key symptoms: difficulty eating and feeling full quickly, or feeling nauseous, increased abdominal size and persistent bloating, an unexplained change in bowel habits and persistent pelvic and abdominal pain.

Vaginal cancer: Vaginal cancer is rare with just under 260 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year. That is less than one out of every 600 cancers diagnosed in women.

Key symptoms: vaginal discharge that smells or may be blood stained, vaginal pain during sex, unexpected bleeding. persistent vaginal or pelvic pain.

Vulva cancer: Vulva cancer is a rare cancer. Around 1,200 cases are diagnosed in the UK each year. It is more common in older women and many cases are diagnosed in women aged 65 or over.

Key symptoms: a lump or swelling on the vulva, a lasting itch, pain or soreness, a mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour, an open sore, or thickened raised or red patches on the vulva.

Womb: Womb cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women in the UK. About 8,500 women are diagnosed with womb cancer in the UK each year, with around five out of every 100 cancers diagnosed in women being womb cancers. The most common type is endometrial.

Key symptoms: vaginal bleeding, bleeding inbetween periods, vaginal discharge and bleeding that is abnormally heavy.

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