A Barnsley grandmother who says cervical screening saved her life is urging others to take the test.
Retired school secretary Pat Harley had considered not booking her last routine screening appointment after receiving a final invitation just before her 65th birthday.
Cervical screening is offered to women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64. Pat had attended every appointment she’d been invited to, and her results had always come back normal.
She said: “A family member had suggested that I didn’t need to bother going for my last one. I always intended to go, but it did make me wonder. In the end I decided to book it, and I’m so thankful I did.”
The test found abnormal cells in Pat’s cervix, and she was asked to book an appointment at Barnsley Hospital.
Pat at her home in Dodworth.
She continued: “I’d never had any medical problems, and I’d never been called back before after a smear test. I’d sailed through the lot. I thought they must have got it wrong. I wondered if it was definitely me they’d meant to contact.”
Pat underwent a biopsy - a medical procedure that involves taking a small sample of body tissue. Soon after, she was asked to return to hospital.
“They told me I had stage 1 cancer and that they needed to operate,” Pat explains. “They gave me a glass of water and I felt fine at that point. But then my neighbour who works in the department came to hug me, and that’s when I got upset.
“I’d been dropped off at the hospital by my husband, Ian, so I had to ring him to ask him to pick me up. By the time we got to the crossroads he was in tears too.”
Pat’s mum was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s, when she’d undergone a mastectomy. Sadly, the cancer returned and she passed away at the age of just 62.
Around 20 years ago, Pat had found a lump in her breast. She had it checked at the hospital, but it turned out to be a non-cancerous cyst that went away on its own.
Pat said: “At that point, I thought I would be fine. I’d always thought I was more like my dad than my mum, but when you’ve got a history of cancer in your family you wonder if you might get it too. The experience reassured me that I’d be okay. So being diagnosed with cervical cancer was shocking.”
Thankfully Pat’s cancer had been found at such an early stage that she was able to have her womb, ovaries and cervix removed through keyhole surgery. The operation left minimal scarring and Pat was able to go home just 24 hours later. She was told she’d need no further treatment.
Some more information on cervical screening.
“I thought if this is having an operation then it’s a doddle,” Pat said. “I’d had no symptoms. I felt absolutely fine when I went in and I felt absolutely fine when I came out. I’ve never really thought about it since. I had such a positive experience that I wrote a letter to the hospital to thank them.”
Pat is now working with regional charity Yorkshire Cancer Research to encourage others to book screening appointments when invited.
She said: “People should definitely go for cervical screening. It’s not the most pleasant experience, but it’s five minutes that could save your life. I feel so lucky. If I’d taken notice of my family member and not gone, it could have been a very different scenario. The sooner you know, the sooner you can get the treatment you need.”
• Researchers at the University of Leeds, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, are currently investigating the different factors that encourage and discourage women from going for screening. Women aged 25-65 are being asked to share their experiences by completing an online survey or taking part in a 30 minute face-to-face or telephone interview.
To complete the survey, please visit https://leeds.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/cervical-cancer-screening. If you’re interested in being interviewed, please contact Dr Sarah Wilding, Research Fellow at the University of Leeds’ School of Psychology by emailing S.E.Wilding@leeds.ac.uk.
Nikki Brady, Senior PR Officer, Yorkshire Cancer Research. Tel: 01423 877228. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
- Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
- We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
- Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
- Current statistics show that 583 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
- We aim to:
- Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
- Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
- Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
- Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
- For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.