Walking out of her doctor’s office earlier this year, Franciene Sabens didn’t know what to think.

Thirty-two and carrying child, she hadn’t really shown any symptoms. She began becoming overly tired, though, and pain in her lower abdomen grew worse. She thought it may have just been a side effect of the pregnancy.

Always conscious about health issues, she visited the doctors for tests. The results came back and showed an abnormality in the cervix region. The doctor wasn’t too up front with information, leaving Sabens feeling like she should have been better prepared to hear the news.

“I had no clue,” she said. “I just said okay because I didn’t want to sound stupid.”

She began doing her own research online while waiting for test results. And when they came, they did so with a matter of urgency. Doctors diagnosed Sabens with Stage 0 Adenocarcinoma, a form of non-invasive cervical cancer beginning in cells that line certain internal organs.

“I didn’t even know what to think at that point,” she said. “I was clueless.”

Directed to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Sabens met with specialists there who guided her through the necessary procedures, including a hysterectomy. Even knowing her family will always be three, she remains positive-minded about the outlook.

“I was really, really lucky,” Sabens said. “I’ll live to see this one grow up, and that’s the great thing about it.”

But Sabens knows there are women out there who aren’t as set in their health routines as she was. Often times, women will forego their own regular doctors’ visits to make time in the schedule for their spouses or kids, putting others ahead of themselves. If something like this could strike her out of nowhere, anyone could fall victim to it.

She decided to take matters into her own hands. Last month, she launched a local chapter of the National Cervical Cancer Coalition to raise awareness of the issues in the region.

The group has already signed up to have a booth at the Southern Illinois Women’s Health Conference in September and is planning a women’s self-defense clinic. But the priority is on spreading the word and raising awareness.

“We need more people with more ideas to reach further out into the community,” Sabens said.

Cervical cancer is the number two most common form of cancer in women, but unlike breast cancer, it’s preventable with the proper care and screenings. Sabens wants to help make sure other women, especially those as young as her, don’t have to go through the struggles she did.

“This was my chance to do something about it,” she said.


(1) comment


Correction - Adenocarcinoma is a VERY invasive form of cervical cancer and is one of the most deadly forms. It is know to spread quickly if not properly treated and watched. Many women with this form of cervical cancer find themselves having serious surgeries in order to save their lives. It requires agressive treatment.

Franciene Sabens is a very lucky woman that they caught it at this critical juncture, as her prognosis could have been much worse if it had gone unchecked throughout her pregnancy, with full invasion by the time she delivered.

Squamous cell forms of cervical cancer are slow growing and typically takes years to become invasive, thus it's important to have your annual screening if you have been diagnosed with HPV or human papilomavirus (regardless of current ACOG guidelines) to ensure that your disease has not progressed. And, when warranted, have an HPV test or get the vaccine.

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