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Prof Hannah Fry on calculating the risks of cancer treatment: ‘I would have paid any price’

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still waiting for treatment.Fry ignored her screening invitation until November 2020. She got round to booking an appointment because, she says: ‘We weren’t in lockdown [at that point] and I happened to have a week where I was [around].’Within two months, by January 2021, she had been diagnosed with potentially very serious cervical cancer.

In early February, she was undergoing major surgery. The tumour in her cervix was the size of a gobstopper and, most serious of all, there were multiple enlarged pelvic lymph nodes suggesting it may already be galloping through the rest of her body.It was these enlarged lymph nodes that indicated a very bad prognosis indeed: ‘Basically, cancer cells in just one would have been serious.

In two, I had below a 50 per cent chance of survival. But four? With the four enlarged, I thought “I’m a goner.”’ She was suddenly contemplating death within five years, leaving her two small daughters motherless.

We meet today at Fry’s temporary home in south-east London (the family house nearby is being renovated). Tall and striking, in a black sweatshirt, cobalt trousers and white leather trainers, she shows me into her study, which has a long rail of clothes that she wears for television appearances.

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