EVER year millions of women put themselves at risk by skipping their smear test.
So when Maxine Smith was diagnosed with cervical cancer at just 29 it came as a huge blow – as she had actually begged doctors to screen her.
The mum-of-two, from Cheadle, Greater Manchester, first noticed she was bleeding after sex in 2016 and told her GP she wanted a smear test.
But she claims that the medic refused because she'd had her routine test two years previously and was due one the following year.
Maxine, now 31, says that the GP in Congleton, Cheshire, put her symptoms down to "contraception problems".
It was only when she moved to Cheadle and changed doctors in January 2018 that she was finally given a test on demand.
A subsequent biopsy found a 3cm tumour on her cervix and devastatingly doctors diagnosed her with grade three cervical cancer.
Maxine, a hairdresser, had to endure the pain of having a hysterectomy and gruelling chemotherapy to remove the cancer aged just 29.
I wouldn't be facing the horrors in my life now if I'd have been given a smear test on demand
Devastatingly, in November 2019, Maxine received the news that her cancer had returned and that it had spread to her lymph nodes and bowel.
She said: "I believe I wouldn't be facing the horrors in my life now if I'd have been given a smear test on demand.
"I don't think I would have needed all the hard treatment of chemotherapy and then have to be battling it again to lose my life a few years down the line.
"It's left my family feeling heartbroken and helpless, my mother keeps saying it should be her and not me.
"My family are not ready for me to go, they feel cursed."
She added: "The worst feeling is looking at my beautiful children and realising that I'm going to be stolen away from them.
"My children are quite young but I've tried to explain to them what's happened.
"I've said there's a flower that's opening up inside of me and it's getting bigger and bigger.
The worst feeling is looking at my beautiful children and realising that I'm going to be stolen away from them
"I've told them I have to go to hospital to get this magical treatment that makes the flower close.
"They know I'm poorly but that's all I've told them. I want to protect them as much as I possibly can.
"Not a day goes by that my heart doesn't break when I think they won't have me around one day and I won't see their lives unfold."
Maxine claims that she had a smear test at the age of 26 and was due to have another at the age of 29.
But when she was 27 she began to experience bleeding after sex and went to her doctor in Congleton.
Maxine said: "I knew something was wrong.
"I'd kept on getting bleeding and went to the doctor around five times.
I went so many times but kept on getting told it was my pill that was making me bleed
"I was screened for STI's and was told there was nothing wrong with my cervix even though they didn't do a test.
"I'm not a promiscuous person so it was all very embarrassing.
"I went so many times but kept on getting told it was my pill that was making me bleed."
The 5 early signs you could have ‘silent killer’ cervical cancer
Early signs can include:
1. Abnormal bleeding (during or after sex, between periods and also post-menopause)
The most common and earliest sign of cervical cancer tends to be irregular bleeding.
It happens when the cancer cells grow on the tissue below the cervix.
It's an especially alarming sign in postmenopausal women who no longer have periods. There's no age limit to developing cervical cancer.
2. Unusual vaginal discharge
Everyone's discharge is different, so it's a case of knowing what is normal for you.
If you find that the colour, smell and consistency has changed, then that's something you really need to have checked out.
When cancer lacks oxygen, it can cause an infection which leads to strange smelling discharge.
3. Discomfort or pain during sex
Pain during sex can be a sign of a number of different issues, but one is cervical cancer.
Because the disease often comes with no symptoms, pain during intercourse is one of the key indicators. It can be a sign that the cancer is spreading to surrounding tissues.
4. Lower back pain
It could be down to you straining something in the gym, or it could be a warning sign that something's wrong with your reproductive organs.
Persistent pain – just one off twinges – in the lower back, pelvis or appendix can be a symptom of cervical cancer.
5. Unintended weight loss
While effortless weight loss might sound like the answer to many of our prayers, it's never a good sign if it happens seemingly without cause.
A loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss tend to be signs that the body isn't working properly – it's trying to conserve energy. If you notice that you're not eating as you normally do, go to your GP.
As the disease progresses, it can also result in:
- Increased need to pee
- Blood in pee
- Bleeding from the bottom
- Lower limb swelling
Maxine is currently receiving chemotherapy to shrink the cancer in an effort to give her some extra time with her precious children, George, 6, and Mia, 5.
She said: "I won't be able to see my children grow up to be adults. The doctor's have said I've got about three years at most.
"I'm going to fight this with everything I've got. I don't care how much pain and suffering I have to go through as long as it gives me the chance to stay with the kids for just a bit longer.
"The NHS have been fantastic, they've gone above and beyond and I'm just so grateful to them.
I don't care how much pain and suffering I have to go through as long as it gives me the chance to stay with the kids for just a bit longer
"I'm hoping to just spend time with my children and enjoy the little things in life with the time I have left."
Maxine's family are currently raising money for her on GoFundMe to pay for the cost of taking her and her children to Disneyland.
Professor Anne Mackie, Director of Programmes, UK National Screening Committee, said: “The UK National Screening Committee does not recommend cervical screening to those under 25 years of age as thankfully cervical cancer in young women in their teens and early 20s is very rare.
"So the benefits of screening these younger women, most of who have already been vaccinated against the two most important types of HPV that causes cervical cancer, are small.
"Harmless and common changes in the cervix are very common in young women and in most cases resolve themselves without any need for treatment. If we were to screen women under 25 these changes could lead to unnecessary and harmful tests and treatments.
“Almost all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) – HPV vaccination is very effective against the infection and as the uptake of the vaccine has been very good since 2008, there is less reason to lower the age of cervical screening.
"The vaccine has led to a dramatic reduction in HPV infection in young women in England and we anticipate a fall in the numbers diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 24-25 in 2019.
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