Staying One Step Ahead of Cervical Cancer May Have Saved Young Mom's Life

Author: Leslie Toldo

For five years, Monica Peters had abnormal pap smears, but she did not have cancer.  That was until she got biopsy results back in May 2023.

“Just getting that phone call was pretty detrimental and scary,” Monica said. “I remember feeling like I couldn’t function with the diagnosis.”

Monica, the mother of three young girls, had no choice but to face cervical cancer head-on. Her gynecologist referred her to Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint Gynecological Oncologist Dr. Benjamin Mize.

“Dr. Mize is very honest and good at understanding what direction to take. He answered all my questions,” Monica said. “It was great to have his support.  He was very quick to act. “

It was Monica’s consistent actions- having regular Pap screenings- that Dr. Mize stresses could have saved her life.

“With routine screening, almost all cervical cancer can be detected in the pre or early stages,” Most women in these stages will likely have no symptoms.  The goal of screening tests is to detect cervical abnormalities before they can become cancer, so they can be more easily treated.”

The latest American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines call for women 25 to 65 to have a Papanicolaou (Pap) test every three years, or have a primary Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) test or a combination HPV and Pap test every five years. People who have been vaccinated against HPV should still follow these guidelines for their age groups.

“When I got regular pap smears, it was hard to keep those appointments. I try to schedule outside my work schedule. Being busy with kids can make it tough, but when I got an abnormal one, I started to go back more regularly and get a biopsy done with each PAP test,” Monica said. “

Monica tested negative for HPV, the virus believed responsible for the majority of cervical cancers, but she believes strongly in the HPV vaccine.” 

“If you have children, it’s important to get them vaccinated against HPV,” Monica said. “It could prevent women from going through what I have. “

The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for children and young adults. There are other ways to help prevent infection.

“You can also reduce your risk for cervical cancer through healthy lifestyle practices, including safe sex and avoiding smoking,” Dr. Mize said.

Even with routine screening, Monica’s cancer was stage 2 and had already begun to spread. Her treatment plan called for surgery, followed by weeks of chemotherapy and radiation.  It was overwhelming for Monica. 

“There is a lot that goes into it. The time and the driving.  I am just very thankful that I had a good support system. The nurses and doctors at Karmanos were there every step of my journey, giving me encouragement when I needed it. There were times I couldn’t even get out of bed, which was hard with three kids. My husband and mom really helped me,” Monica said. 

Let friends and family help you.  That is the main thing Monica urges anyone diagnosed with any type of cancer to do first and foremost and to talk to other people who may have had cancer because they can tell you what to expect and share their experiences. Accepting that help, in turn, has fueled Monica’s passion to pay it forward.

“I ran into a woman who had stage 3 or 4 cervical cancer. She survived. She told me to stay positive and not to let it get to me. Find someone like a close friend or family member to confide in or even a favorite activity to participate in. Turn to these comforts and be open to trying new ways to deal with your cancer,” Monica said. “It would mean so much to me if sharing my story with others and how my treatment was successful inspires them to have hope.”

To learn more about Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint’s gynecological oncology services visit