Jade Tunchy is best known as one of Australia’s most popular social media influencers but her decision to share a personal health journey has put an often ignored subject in the spotlight.
- Jade Tunchy was diagnosed with HPV: a common sexually transmitted disease that shows no symptoms
- Abnormal tissue was detected that could have developed into cancer without surgery
- There was a 45 per cent drop in cervical cancer screening rates from January to June this year compared to 2019
“So basically, I noticed abnormalities in my period as well as other symptoms, which made me think it was worth checking out,” she said.
“I also hadn’t had my pap test in a few years, so I thought I was due for it anyway.”
A trip to her doctor in August for a cervical screening test revealed she had human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease, which is usually harmless, shows no symptoms and goes away by itself, according to Cancer Institute NSW.
‘Youth was on my side’
But Ms Tunchy’s doctor detected high-grade abnormalities, which had the potential to develop into cervical cancer if left untreated.
“My doctor told me that most cases that are detected early recover, and that youth was on my side,” she said.
“I felt like I had a huge lack of knowledge about the topic and as the process went on, I was surprised to find out just how common it was.”
The 25-year-old is healing after undergoing a Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) in hospital on Thursday to remove the abnormal tissue.
Over the past three months she’s documented her experience, sharing it with her more than 450,000 Instagram followers.
“I hadn’t really seen any other women speak openly about this,” she said.
Ms Tunchy said she received an overwhelming response with hundreds of messages from women in similar situations.
“The screenings are there because this is all preventative if caught early. The process isn’t half as bad as you might think … you aren’t alone in this,” Ms Tunchy said.
Sharp drop in cancer screenings
Data shows an almost 45 per cent drop in cervical cancer screening rates from January to June this year compared with 2019, according to a recent report from the Australia Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
To combat this, more than 40 organisations have pledged to give flexible leave or time off to employees wanting to have a cervical screening test.
Australian and global companies have joined a campaign called #ThePreventionPact, which also aims to start a conversation among women.
“We think there’s about a million women out there that aren’t up to date with their cervical screenings,” Leisa Ashton from the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation said.
“We’ve all got mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, friends that we know … won’t be up to date with their cervical screening tests and this is as good a time as any to go and get up to date with it.”
The pap test was replaced by the cervical screening test almost three years ago, with women encouraged to get the new test every five years from the age of 25.
The age of a woman’s first test changed from 18 to 25 because cervical cancer is rare in those aged under 25, according to Cancer Institute NSW.
While there is an HPV vaccine, which is given to most school-aged children, it does not protect against all types of HPV.
HPV-vaccinated women still need to have a cervical screening test every five years.
“As we’re now getting back to some normalcy in life, if you missed the screening test earlier in the year it’s important to catch up on that now,” Danielle McMullen from the Australian Medical Association said.
“The goal is to be looking for things before it’s a cancer because we can treat abnormalities and prevent cancers from happening.”