‘I’d started planning my funeral’ David Tennant’s wife Georgia on surviving cancer

David Tennant and wife Georgia appear on Meet the Richardsons

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The 37-year-old who first met her husband whilst both were working on an episode of Doctor Who, has gone on to appear in six-part comedy Staged, filmed during the COVID-19 lockdown with her husband and Michael Sheen, and has produced the podcast series David Tennant Does a Podcast With… which began in 2019. The actress has also shared intimate details of her private life and cancer battle on her personal blog Public Cervix Announcement, which in 2020 she resurfaced to warn others about the dangers of missing regular cervical screenings.

First sharing back in 2018 after her diagnosis, Tennant detailed the harrowing moment her smear results came back positive. At the time she wrote: “So those of you who know me, know I like to share but those of you who don’t, will know I like to keep things private.

“This particular private thing however, I feel must be shared. A few weeks ago I received an abnormal smear result. ‘Borderline changes’ to be exact.

“Before I’d made it up upstairs to tell my husband, I’d started planning my funeral. Having kids takes you to that place pretty quickly I find.”

After an initial panic Google search, Tennant was booked for a procedure known as a colposcopy which is used by medical professionals to take a closer look at an individual’s cervix. Despite having been reassured by doctors that “no further investigation” will be needed past this point, when examined it was found that Tennant’s “borderline changes” were the early stages of cervical cancer.

Explaining more about her diagnosis, Tennant went on to write: “When he [the doctor] starts asking me about my work I know something is amiss. This is confirmed when he mouths ‘subtly’ the word ‘biopsy’ to his nervous looking assistant. She is unfortunately unrehearsed in this art and it needs repeating by which point I’m like a seven-year-old who’s mother is spelling out the work ‘cake’.

“He takes the biopsy. Man that hurt! But I now realise I’m in a slightly different world. I can’t tell whether it’s this or the smarting cervix but I start to cry. ‘It’s not cancer’ he says. ‘But neither is it borderline’ Ok so it’s not cancer. That’s great! What everyone wants to hear, surely? So why am I crying?!

“Clothed again I sit in front of him. He tells me how terribly hard it is for a woman when something goes wrong in the area which makes her a woman. My results finally come through. I have what’s called CIN 2. ‘Pre-Cancer’.

“I’ve had what’s called a ‘Cervical excision’. This removes a section of the affected cervix which should in the 97 percent of all cases, solve the problem. Fingers crossed, I’m fixed. Sorted.”

Desperately hoping that the cervical excision was the end to her health ordeal, two weeks after the star posted on her blog again, with an unexpected update. This time Tennant wrote: “The lovely doctor called yesterday. Results are back. It was cancer. They’ve got it all but it was cancer.

“My betraying little cervix had begun an attempt to kill me off and by a stroke of baffling luck I had stopped it, beat it, cut it out before it had a chance to make it out of the starting gate.

“Survived cancer without ever realising I had it. As you can tell I’m still processing this, it’s quite a thing to get your head round.”

Having shared her story from “borderline changes to cancer to cancer free in mere months” Tennant hoped that it would encourage those who have been put off booking a cervical screening to stop being “scared” and book it.

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A post shared by Georgia Tennant (@georgiatennantofficial)

Cervical cancer commonly occurs in women or anyone who has a cervix and is over the age of 30. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. Perhaps more importantly, most cases can be prevented by attending cervical screening.

These screenings are even more important as cervical cancer in its early stages may not cause any signs or symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause pain in the lower back, bleeding or discharge from the vagina, particularly after sex, between periods or after menopause. However these symptoms could be caused by other conditions such as fibroids or endometriosis.

However, with 3,200 individuals in the UK diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, it is important for individuals to get these symptoms checked. Currently in England and Northern Ireland women between the ages of 25 and 64 are invited for a cervical smear test every three years, with those over 50 invited every five years until they turn 64. The test itself should take less than five minutes.

The smear test now tests for the HPV virus instead of testing for abnormal cells in the cervix as the presence of HPV can help predict whether a person may be at risk of developing cervical cancer. If a person is found to have HPV, the sample is checked for signs of abnormal cells that may indicate cervical cancer or pre-cancerous cells. For women who test negative for HPV, there is no need for further testing and you can await your next smear test.

If diagnosed with cervical cancer, treatment will depend on a number of factors including the size and type of cervical cancer you have, where the cancer is, if it has spread and your general health. In most cases treatment involves a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Surgery however can also be used to treat cervical cancer. The NHS explains that different surgeries involve removing:

  • Part of the cervix – only possible if the cancer is very small
  • The cervix and upper part of the vagina – the womb is not removed, so it’s possible to get pregnant in the future
  • The cervix and womb (hysterectomy) – can include removing the ovaries and fallopian tubes
  • The cervix, womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes, and all or parts of the bladder, bowel, vagina or rectum – This is only offered if the cancer has come back and other treatment is not possible.

Two years after initially sharing her cancer story, Tennant took to social media sharing a throwback photo of herself in a hospital gown along with the caption: “Here I am on 22nd February 2018. Although ’tis indeed a fetching look, if you’d like to learn more about why you should never miss a smear test please read the story attached in bio.”

Individuals will be sent an invitation letter in the post when it’s time to book your cervical screening appointment.

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