‘Don’t miss out on the test – it could just save your life’

Emma Duke
Emma Duke
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TAKE the test – it could save your life.

That’s the stark message from Emma Duke.

Aged just 32 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer after missing a smear test she believes could have prevented it.

She is speaking out after new figures revealed that thousands of women could be risking their lives by developing the cancer after not attending the free five-minute test. Latest NHS figures show that in 2013/14, 51,000 eligible women aged 25 to 64 were invited for a test in Portsmouth.

But only 73.8 per cent attended – 37,638 women – meaning another 13,362 have not been screened.

And there has been a drop in the percentage of women screened in the city on the previous year, – when 74.5 per cent of 50,500 were screened.

Emma, now 33, was invited for a test in December 2013.

She said: ‘I had received an invitation to book an appointment and intended to call the doctors straight away.

‘However Christmas was on its way and I forgot.

‘Time went on I started to have irregular mid-cycle bleeding. The bleeding became more regular throughout 2014 and I was getting concerned so I went back to the doctor and explained how long the bleeding had been going on.’

Emma couldn’t have her test until her bleeding was regulated – at this point seven months had passed since her invitation for the test.

She added: ‘My worst fears were realised.

‘I had abnormal cells and was required to attend an appointment in hospital where a procedure was carried out to remove abnormal cells.

‘The nurse told me there was a large abnormal area but she had removed everything and if there was anything more serious I would hear in about two weeks.

‘Two weeks passed with no letter so I was feeling hopeful that everything was fine.

‘But at three weeks I received a big shock – a letter came through telling me an appointment had been made for me with a gynaecologist.

‘When the doctor told me I had cervical cancer I was devastated.

‘I was 32 with a five-year-old and three-year-old at home and I just didn’t expect that to be the result after everything that had been said.’

Emma had a hysterectomy in November last year and was told she was cancer-free in December.

The Sainsbury’s team leader added: ‘If I had had my test earlier on then things might have been very different.

‘We thought the bleeding was because of the contraceptive implant I had, but it turns out it was the cancer. I’d say to women, five minutes of slight discomfort is worth it as it could save your life.

‘Most practices have a female doctor or nurse perform the test and it doesn’t take long at all.’

Dr Janet Maxwell, director of public health for Portsmouth, wants women to talk to each other and put minds at rest over the life-saving test.

She said: ‘I encourage women to make their appointment as soon as they receive their invitation letter.

‘If you’ve been for your test, ask your female friends and relatives if they’ve been recently.

‘Sharing your experience could motivate other women to get tested and potentially save more lives from cervical cancer.

‘The test takes five minutes and being screened regularly means any abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix can be identified at an early stage and, if necessary, treated to stop cancer developing.’

Portsmouth is below the national average for 2013/14, which stands at 77.8 per cent, and the south east average of 78.7 per cent. In Hampshire in 2012/13, 81 per cent of 332,700 women were screened, and in 2013/14, 80 per cent of 334,700, had their cervical screening.

Cells test

SOMETIMES called a smear test, a cervical screening test is a method of detecting abnormal cells on the cervix.

While the test is not a direct cancer screening, what it does is check the health of the cells of the cervix.

If abnormalities are detected it would mean the cells could be removed to stop them forming into cancerous ones.

The aim of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme is to reduce the number of women who develop cervical cancer and the number of women who die from the condition.

Women aged between 25 and 49 are invited for testing every three years, and women aged between 50 and 64 are invited every five years.

Charity backs call for women to take up screening

A CERVICAL cancer charity is urging women to take up the screening.

Robert Music, chief executive for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: ‘It’s estimated the NHS Cervical Screening Programme saves 5,000 lives every year and yet screening uptake is falling year on year.

‘Portsmouth cervical screening uptake also lies below the national average and we are extremely worried that if screening attendance does not improve, numbers diagnosed will rise.

‘Cervical screening picks up pre-cancerous abnormalities which if left untreated could develop into cancer. It’s a simple five-minute test that could save your life.’