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‘I was on my IVF journey when a scan found abnormal pre-cancer cells in my womb’

Tamsin Quinn from Balbriggan in Dublin is highlighting her experience to draw attention to World GO Day


Tamsin Quinn at home in Balbriggan with her Bernese mountain dog Jasper. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Tamsin Quinn at home in Balbriggan with her Bernese mountain dog Jasper. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Tamsin Quinn at home in Balbriggan with her Bernese mountain dog Jasper. Photo: Steve Humphreys

A special-needs teacher has revealed how it was only through her IVF journey in the hope of starting a family that she accidentally discovered she had pre-cancer cells in her womb.

Tamsin Quinn (43) from Balbriggan, Co Dublin, was hoping to get pregnant in 2016 and was undergoing scans at the Sims clinic.

Abnormal cells, which could potentially develop into endometrial cancer were found by the IVF facility.

“I did not fit the common risks or signs for this cancer. I was not menopausal age or older. I was not overweight and did not have any bleeding,” she said.

While the abnormal cells were not cancerous, she underwent treatment including insertion of a Mirena coil, which releases a small amount of the hormone progesterone and can stop the lining of the womb thickening.

She said she had previously been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and had some discharge, but doctors were unclear of a link between these and the pre-cancer cells.

Ms Quinn is highlighting her experience to draw attention to World GO Day, which aims to raise awareness of gynaecological cancers. More than 1,400 gynaecological cancers are diagnosed in Ireland annually, including 540 uterine cancers, the most common of which is endometrial.

The treatment for the abnormal cells was successful, but Ms Quinn had to have a D&C procedure twice a year to remove tissue from inside her womb.

“We did six rounds of IVF in total. In the meantime, I did a degree in adult education,” she said.

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However, it did not result in a much-wanted child for Ms Quinn and her husband Karl.

“We did not have children, but we have a puppy, Jasper,” she said.

After several years of having D&C procedures and “constant worries”, she decided to have a hysterectomy earlier this year.

“The doctor said from the first day, that was the endgame. I feel so much better now.”

Her message to other women is to go for regular check-ups, not be embarrassed about talking to their doctor, to be aware of symptoms but also that not everyone fits the classic pattern for these diseases.

New research to mark the awareness day, which is being promoted by the Irish Network for Gynaecological Oncology, shows that one in four women are not aware of uterine cancer.

Three in five cannot name symptoms and three in 10 do not make a link between being a healthy weight and reducing risk.

Risk factors include age and genetics – where it can run in families where colon cancer is hereditary or with a history of Lynch syndrome.

Symptoms can include bleeding or spotting, change in vaginal discharge, pain in the lower abdomen or pain in the back.

Meanwhile, Professor Helen Heneghan, a bariatric surgeon at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin and UCD professor of surgery, said research she is leading is showing positive results for women who have endometrial cancer, pre-cancer lesions or are at risk of the disease but may not be suitable for a hysterectomy due to obesity.

“We have put them through bariatric surgery or medication and found the tumours regressed in 80pc. They had essentially disappeared. Any of the weight-loss operations could have this effect.”

Obesity is associated with a higher risk of endometrial cancer.

She said the bariatric surgery can also be beneficial for women who do not want to have a hysterectomy and have not completed their family. 

“The cancer is getting more common now in younger women because of the obesity crisis,” said Prof Heneghan, who works on the research with Mater obstetrician Donal Brennan.

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