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Sharp Health News

Finding strength in a cervical cancer diagnosis

Sept. 1, 2021

Liliana Aguilar at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center

Liliana Aguilar completed treatment for stage 3 cervical cancer at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.

“Whatever it takes. I want to be as aggressive as possible.”

That was the attitude Liliana Aguilar had throughout her treatment for stage 3 cervical cancer in spring 2021, which she believes helped her.

“I would cry, especially when I was feeling very sick from the treatment, but I had a positive attitude of acceptance and gratitude. I’m a woman of faith, so I prayed a lot.”

Aguilar, 47, had been having low back pain, so she saw her doctor, who performed an ultrasound and other tests that confirmed she had cervical cancer. She had 25 sessions of radiation, five sessions of chemo, and spent nearly a week hospitalized at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center to receive a specialized type of cancer treatment called brachytherapy.

“Brachytherapy is a powerful tool we often use as part of a patient’s cancer treatment. Especially with a diagnosis of cervical cancer, when it’s important to spare the nearby healthy organs and tissue, it allows us to deliver extremely targeted radiation therapy to ensure we’re treating only the cancer source with as much precision and accuracy as possible,” says Dr. Ryan Bair, radiation oncologist at the Douglas & Nancy Barnhart Cancer Center at Sharp Chula Vista. “I admire Liliana’s strength and positive outlook during the process.”

“I dealt with fatigue, constipation, weight loss and more, but I focused on having a positive attitude,” says Aguilar. “Whatever had to be done, I told them to do it. Having support from my family was so important too.”

While Aguilar was finishing treatment, her little sister, 13, received the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine, something Aguilar encouraged, knowing that HPV can cause cervical cancer.

“She was recently vaccinated against COVID-19 as well,” says Aguilar. “What I would say is knowledge is power. Anything that is available for our well-being, we should take it.”

HPV is a common virus and can infect both men and women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 13 million Americans, including teens, become infected with HPV each year. Most HPV infections will go away on their own. But infections that don’t go away can cause certain types of cancer, including cervical cancer, penile cancer, oral cancer and anal cancer.

The HPV vaccine — recommended for children and young adults age 9 to 26 — helps protect individuals by preventing HPV infections that can cause cancer.

“So many people are afraid, but we get rid of fear by educating ourselves and by trusting our medical team,” Aguilar says.

Learn more about cancer treatment at Sharp HealthCare.

For the news media: To speak with Liliana Aguilar or Dr. Bair for an upcoming story, please contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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