A mum -of-two who lost both her parents to cancer within months of each other was stunned when she was diagnosed with the disease herself, just two weeks after her mum’s funeral.

After experiencing months of unexplained bleeding, tests revealed Sonia Dancer 47, from Fair Oak, had stage 3 cervical cancer and required surgery, chemotherapy and two types of radiotherapy to beat it.

Now well, Sonia, who works at a senior school, is highlighting how progress made by Cancer Research UK is giving hope to future generations including her teenage daughter, Olivia.

(Image: CRUK / Stuart Martin)

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Sonia said: “When I was diagnosed, everything in terms of cancer meant death in my family, after losing my dad to thyroid cancer and then my mum to breast cancer - so it was really difficult telling the children who were just 6 and 10 at the time.

"But thankfully, I was able to receive treatments that were tough, but helped me get better.

“Now, I’m not only reassured that my daughter will likely avoid going through what I went through thanks to having the HPV vaccine, I’m also a patient representative on a new clinical trial for cervical cancer here in Southampton which aims to save more lives.”

(Image: Family collection)

Sonia is sharing her views with a team of researchers at the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, working on a new treatment for cervical cancer.

The Cancer Research UK funded CRAIN trial is testing a drug alongside combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, in the hope it will improve survival.

Around 3,300 people are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year, almost all cases caused by HPV.

(Image: Family collection)

This link, discovered 25 years ago, was a key step towards today’s vaccination programme and improved cervical cancer screening. It also led to the development of the HPV vaccine, which helps to prevent cancer.

Sonia encouraged her daughter Olivia to receive the vaccine.

Olivia, 14, said, “I had it in Year 8 and lots of my friends were nervous about having it done and were scared of needles, but I was much more relaxed because I knew I didn’t want to go through what my mum went through.

“It was no big deal, but it gives me a level of protection from the kind of illness I saw my nan, grandad and mum go through.”