According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the U.S. and around 4,000 die from it. One local woman who survived the cancer is now living to make sure those numbers decrease.
Denielle Nall gave birth to twins just months before she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
"A month later I had a radical hysterectomy," she says.
Nall says she knew something was wrong when she had random bleeding not associated with her monthly period. At first doctors didn't know it was cancer.
"I walked out of that office knowing that I was misdiagnosed," Nall says. "I knew that something was wrong and I think I just did not want to believe it."
Even more confusing, Nall's pap smear came back normal. What wasn't clear at first is that her type of cancer, adenosquamous carcinoma, is very rare.
"It was [an] aggressive, fast-growing cancer, which is why I had a pap smear just six months earlier," Nall says.
According to the Foundation for Women's Cancer, most forms of cervical cancer are slow-growing and non-aggressive, which is why doctors say it's important for women to get regular pap smears.
"We now know that HPV is the cause of a lot of potentially devastating cancers that again, if caught early, can be cured," says Dr. John Elkas.
After the surgery, Nall had several rounds of both chemotherapy and radiation. She finished her treatment in March and is looking forward to living life cancer free.
Nall encourages women to be their own advocate and get annual exams.
"There is a stigma with some women's cancer as far as coming forward and talking about them. That's got to change or else this is going to continue to take women's lives," she says.
Nall will be participating in the Race to End Women's Cancer on Nov. 3 in Washington, D.C.