A friend told me she has cervical cancer

I met her two months ago. We clicked from the start and have become fairly close. She has shown a lot of interest in making things “romantic” between us. When we met, she was dating a friend of mine. He was very into her and I suspect that she ditched him in an attempt to get at me. I’ve told her that I’m not interested in anything with her beyond friendship for primarily this reason.

Though funny and interesting, this girl is a piece of work. She has always seemed to have some pain and emotional baggage lurking right below the surface. Friends who have known her for much longer consider her slightly “crazy”. She is regular weed smoker, uses cocaine (as far as I know, only occasionally), and knows no moderation when she drinks. She has “always” had a boyfriend and had, from her telling, “a lot” of sexual partners.

Last night, I showed up at a party and she was already fairly smashed. The moment I sat down, she began whispering that she really needed to talk. We stepped outside and after a struggle to compose herself she told me she has been diagnosed with cervical cancer a “few weeks ago”. She insists that I’m the only person that understands her, that listens to her, that she can talk to. I asked her what the next step was. She was distraught and did not really know. She hasn’t been back to a doctor. She is, I think, still on her parent’s medical insurance. She is deathly afraid to face her parents with the news (they know nothing of her promiscuous partying ways). I insisted that she needs to sit down with a doctor and hammer out a plan of action. She is not a logical thinker and definitely was not thinking logically last night.

So, I am going to be talking to her soon. I believe she is capable of some serious manipulation, and I’m skeptical for that reason, but there is no way I can treat this as anything but real.

How should I advise her? Obviously, she needs to be getting medical attention NOW. How to go about getting her there if she can’t/won’t do it alone? I assume the doctor who diagnosed her would be obligated to remain in contact, is this correct? It seems that he would have already had the ‘this is what’s going on, here’s how we’re going to beat it’ game plan talk with her but maybe not. I assume distraught young cancer patients are not uncommon. Are there counselors devoted to helping patients like her through the process?

Augh! A million questions. Any advice is appreciated.

Edit: Also, my friend she dated was exposed to HPV, it would seem. What to do on this front?

To be absolutely blunt: why is this your problem? She’s not your child. She’s not your spouse. She’s not even someone you’re in love with–she’s just this person who has glommed onto you, and based on what you say of her past behavior, I can’t view her motives with anything but the deepest suspicion.

You want advice? Okay, two things. I will be very blunt. :wink:

#1. Do not give her any money. Not for “tests”, not for “co-pay on some surgery”, not for a “loan”, not for anything. Chances are excellent that you will never see that money again, indeed, that it will simply go for drugs and/or booze. Or for a “good time” with some other guy.

#2. Do not give her any emotional involvement other than the kind of neutrally friendly, caring support you’d give a male acquaintance who told you he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer (note that I said “acquaintance”, not “friend”, because this gal is not your friend). With her track record of abuse and manipulation, which you yourself acknowledge (she is “a piece of work”), if you cannot back off and allow her to find her own way out of this–if you insist on becoming further and more deeply emotionally involved with her even with all these blatant warning signs of trouble up ahead–I will be forced to conclude that the only reason for your interest is that you’re hoping to get in her pants.

If she does have cervical cancer, that’s a terrible thing, but (a) you don’t know that it’s true, and (b) even if it were true, like I said, she’s not your wife or your lover or even your “friend”–she’s just “this person you know”. Two months is not very long to know someone–how are you defining “fairly close”? If you’re not close enough to know for sure whether she has cervical cancer or not, if you’re not close enough to know all the details of her medical insurance, then IMO you’re not that close.

You do understand that “promiscuous party girls” say this to everyone, yes?

Again–why is it your problem?
What to do about it? Nothing.

Other than “not have sex with this girl”, of course.

If you really want to help her, encourage her to talk to her parents. They’re the folks whose problem this is.
Not yours.

Um, this is what she told you? Like, “OMG, I can’t tell my parents! Because then they’ll know that I’m not, like, a virgin, you know?”

That’s just stupid. Cervical cancer is not caused by promiscuity, by multiple sexual partners. If that were true, then we’d have a true epidemic of cervical cancer worldwide. If she told her parents she had cervical cancer, they’d be, like, “OMG, you have cancer!” Not, “OMG you slut!”

So either she truly doesn’t understand this, or else she’s feeding you a line as an excuse not to involve her parents because she doesn’t really have cancer.

So you could clarify things for her, see what happens. That would be another data point, seeing how she responds to the news that she needn’t fear to tell her folks she has cancer.

I agree with DDG completely. If you feel you must do anything at all, give her a list of community health centers where she can seek treatment. Otherwise, offer a shoulder but nothing else. This sets off my BS meter something terrible, especially the not telling her parents part.

In all fairness, there are some people who think this way (i.e. the ones who can’t understand why their chaste 16-year-old daughter would want to get vaccinated).

But I agree. This is not the OP’s problem. In fact, I’m not even sure the girl in question would want it to be his problem had she not been drunk and at a party. Booze is like truth serum to some people.

An estimated 75 percent of the adult American population will be infected at some point in their lives, so unless he’d never had any sexual contact with a girl before this one, there’s no way to know who ‘exposed’ who. Especially if neither of them have had symptoms before. The body can flush it out of its system in a matter of time, so I don’t think you need to be asking him if he’s noticed any warts or anything (and hopefully there’s no HPV-penile cancer link, though there may be).

Is the exposure rate really that high? And “the body flushing it out of its system?” I thought HPV was like Herpes in that there was no known cure and that once you got it, you were stuck with it. Can the body actually kill an HPV infection?

As far as the friend, I suggest that a little ways down the road (when the girl has calmed down a bit and been to a clinic and has a decent handle on things), suggest to her that she mention this to (at least her recent) sexual partners. If she refuses, you may want to tell your friend yourself.

From my limited medical understanding, she would have to have already have had a pretty significant medical exam to get diagnosed with cervical cancer. Women get pap smears as part of a regular gyno exam, and if that comes back abnormal it is a bad sign, and enough to cause panic for many women, but there are additional, non-trivial tests that are done before the actual cancer diagnosis.

If you’re into being nice here, without being manipulated, I don’t think you could go too far wrong with offering to go to Planned Parenthood with her. They do some basic women’s health stuff in addition to birth control and would be qualified to give her advice.

Also, again based on limited medical knowledge, it seems like HPV causes cervical cancer over time. Not that a failry young woman couldn’t have it, but from what I’ve read it’s more like smoking causes cancer than like a gunshot causing bleeding, if you follow. This again makes me think she may be overreacting to what is currently just an abnormal pap test, which can mean many things.

Yet one more thing, I think even the commercials for the vaccine don’t claim that HPV is the only cause of cervical cancer. So maybe, god forbid, this girl actually does have cervical cancer but it is due to heredity or chemical exposure or some random mutation. Again, even some non-smokers get lung cancer.

Finally, I do think your friend should be told. Whether there is a risk to him or not, if these two do both have HPV, he is at risk of spreading it to future sexual partners through unprotected sex. And that will put his future girlfriends at risk for cervical cancer. You know your friend and whether he can be trusted to respect the girl’s privacy and not go off on her when she is scared about having cancer. If he is at all trustworthy, I’d put his need to know above her drunken rantings of “but you can’t tell anybody.”

Quoted for truth. Don’t let this girl suck you into the black hole of her drama.
If I were you, I’d encourage her to talk to her parents or a doctor, but do not let it go any further than that.

Last February, I had an abnormal pap smear. You can bet your bootie that I read up on everything. Here’s what I understand.

Currently, our understanding is that cervical cancer is caused by certain types of the human papilloma virus. Generally speaking, these are types of the virus that do not cause noticeable warts. None of the literature I read would come out and say “we are 100% sure that cervical cancer is ONLY EVER caused by HPV,” but I never saw any discussion of other causes. Not once.

There are over 50 types of HPV, ranging from plantar warts to genital warts to facial warts. Only specific types of genital warts can cause cervical cancer. Generally speaking, those who are exposed to and infected with HPV will clear the infection in 2-5 years. That’s with a healthy immune system. Some people, for no good reason, can’t seem to clear the infection, or they are reinfected several times. This appears to be what sets a woman up for cervical cancer.

On examination, only very far progressed cervical cancer can be spotted visually. Gynecologists depend on Pap smears, which is basically scraping cells off the cervix and having them checked under a microscope. There is a differentiation between the cells of the outer cervix and the inner cervix, and too many cells showing up from the inner cervix can cause an abnormal reading.

Once an abnormal reading has occurred, the usual response is to get a colposcopy. This is basically a much more intense Pap smear. First, the gynecologist sprays the genital area with a mild acetic acid solution (vinegar). This brings any HPV lesions into relief, for easier identification. Then, the gynecologist takes cell scrapings from several spots around the cervix and then inserts an instrument into the cervix to take samples from within.

If this tests clear, then the patient is asked to follow up with quarterly Pap smears for a year, to make sure nothing was hiding. If the colposcopy indicates more abnormalities, it usually pinpoints a site. The gynecologist will then discuss approaches, such as freezing the affected tissue and doing a…I forget the word, but the affected tissue is removed in a cone shape. The more of the cervix that is affected, and the further along the changes to cancer, the more likely surgery. If it has advanced to full on cancer, then surgery and perhaps radiation or chemotherapy are possible.

You didn’t say how old your friend is. The younger she is, the less likely that it’s cervical cancer. She may have had an abnormal Pap smear - which can absolutely be caused by a basic HPV infection - and panicked, assuming this meant she had cancer.

I can only echo what the others have said. Stay out of it. If she asks for help, point her to Planned Parenthood. If you must offer money, give it directly to PP or the doctor. Don’t hand it over to her. IANAD, but if she’s got the just-under-the-surface crazies and her behavior is as over-the-top dramatic as you describe, she may have borderline personality disorder. Getting in the middle of it is only going to burn through your precious resources. It won’t end up helping her.

Much wisdom in this thread already. Doctor speaking here - cervical cancer is staged, from something called CIS (carcinoma in situ) all the way to metastatic (spread to distant sites). Bottom line, not a trivial diagnosis, not one made without the benefit of colposcopy and biopsy, and one that once made can be treated depending on the stage. The earlier the detection, the better the outcome. Simple advice - don’t let her screw around with “I don’t want my parents to know”. I’m sure her parents would rather know and help with a diagnosis of cervical cancer than worry about whether promiscuous sex and exposure to HPV was the reason their daughter has cancer (at least I would hope so!) You can’t make her involve her parents, but I would HIGHLY recommend you suggest it.

My clinical hat on here re the behavior stuff - everything is screaming out to me that this woman is what we call “borderline”, shorthand for a borderline personality disorder. Characterized, among other things, by intense expressions of “your are the only one”, followed by brief and volcanic hostile rejections “you just don’t understand me”. Don’t get sucked in; these folks exhaust even the best medical and psychologic professionals - I wouldn’t doubt it if she was actually inflating the truth about the “cancer” in an effort to play your emotions. Sorry, but that’s what over twenty years of practice will do to the cynical quotient.

Stay wary, my friend, stay wary. Steer her to medical professionals; if she truly has the diagnosis, that is the best thing you can do for her.

Thank you all for the wisdom.

I’m fairly confident she IS borderline. I will be wary and not get sucked into her emotional vortex. However, I do feel an obligation to at least talk her through until she begins to show some tendencies for self-preservation. She MAY not be bullshitting, and she may be extremely dangerous to herself if this is the case. It doesn’t take much of a commitment on my part to make sure she acts in a sane manner regarding what may be a serious problem.

I will “steer her to professionals” and out of my life, I think. I leave for school across the country on Sunday anyhow.