Woman Warns Others as ‘Menopause’ Symptoms Turn Out to Be Womb Cancer

Reija Sillanpaa is sharing her cautionary tale after what she initially believed were menopause symptoms turned out to be womb cancer.

In 2017, Reija began noticing subtle changes in her menstrual cycle and initially assumed she was approaching menopause. However, by late 2018, her periods had become long and heavy, accompanied by lower backaches and constant fatigue. She attributed her tiredness to her demanding job as a teacher and poor posture from grading piles of books.

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Tragically, tests later confirmed that Reija, now 37 years old and originally from Finland but living in London during her treatment, had advanced womb cancer.

Reija told NeedToKnow.co.uk, “There is no going back to normal.”

Reflecting on her diagnosis, she added, “Luckily, I had a GP who sent me straight for further tests. Unfortunately, I know many people whose diagnosis was delayed because a doctor did not think womb cancer was possible, usually due to their young age. I’m so grateful my GP did not belong to that group of medical professionals because, by the time I was diagnosed, the cancer had already spread outside the womb and was at stage three.”

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According to Cancer Research UK, less than 50% of women with stage three womb cancer survive for five years or more after diagnosis.

Reija shared, “I wasn’t surprised, but I was terrified. My doctors couldn’t tell me if I would survive. The hardest part was telling my parents, brother, and sister, who were all still in Finland.”

She continued, “I think they would have liked me to return home to Finland for my treatment, but they also knew I was receiving the best care at the Royal Marsden.”

Reija underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, followed by 25 rounds of external radiotherapy and two rounds of internal (brachytherapy) radiotherapy. She has been in remission since November 2019.

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During her journey, Reija started a blog to connect with others with cancer or cancer survivors and shared her experiences on Instagram (@cycling_for_cancer).

In addition to her cancer diagnosis, Reija has been diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome. This inherited condition increases the risk of various types of cancer. She must undergo regular colonoscopies and remain vigilant about changes in her body.

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Reija emphasized, “People need to stop thinking of womb cancer as an older woman’s cancer. You can get womb cancer at any age, and GPs should always refer people who have changes to their periods for further checkups. If your doctor doesn’t give you a referral, push for it or see another GP. Don’t take no for an answer. Also, anyone who has cancers linked to Lynch syndrome, such as womb cancer or colon cancer in their families, should consider genetic testing.”

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Reija and her partner Justin raised £1,335 for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity by cycling across Europe in 2021 and plan to cycle from Istanbul to Lapland next.

She said, “I wanted to do something to say thanks for the amazing treatment and care I received. I plan to turn my blog, Cycling For Cancer, into a book soon to spread more awareness, hopefully. I also hope my story from my cancer diagnosis to cycling across Europe might encourage people diagnosed with womb or any other type of cancer.”

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Reija’s story serves as a potent reminder that anyone, regardless of age, can be affected by cancer, and it’s crucial to seek medical attention and advocate for one’s health when experiencing unusual symptoms.


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