A WOMAN was told that she was “too young” for a smear test – only to be given months to live when docs finally discovered she had cervical cancer.
Katie Bourne started to suffer from belly pains, doctors assumed she had Crohn’s disease.
Then aged 24, docs refused to give her a smear test as she was too young.
Katie was finally diagnosed with stage-three cervical cancer back in February, when she was warned that unless she started treatment immediately, she’d only have 18 months left to live.
Katie told Teesside Live that all of her symptoms had pointed towards cervical cancer but that her referrals for smears were turned down because of her age.
She said she started to experience stomach pains in July last year and went her GP in November.
“They took some swabs and said I was booked in for a smear,” she told the site.
“But when I went back they said they weren’t going to do the smear and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.
“The pain never went with the medication they gave me for that.”
In fact, after her cancer was picked up, it turned out that there was nothing wrong with her bowel at all.
In February, Katie collapsed in pain at her job at Next and spent the next three nights in hospital – where she was denied a smear again.
Symptoms of cervical cancer
The devastating thing about cervical cancer is that there are no obvious symptoms during the early stages.
But vaginal bleeding can often be a tell-tale sign – especially if it occurs after sex, in between periods or after the menopause.
Women are offered smear tests from the age of 25 which look for any abnormalities in the cervix, but if you are under the age bracket, and you notice any of the following symptoms, you’ve got to push for testing.
Other warning signs include:
- pain and discomfort during sex
- unusual or unpleasant vaginal discharge
- pain in your lower back or pelvis
And if it spreads to other organs, the signs can include:
- pain in your lower back or pelvis
- severe pain in your side or back caused by your kidneys
- peeing or pooing more than usual
- losing control of your bladder or bowels
- blood in your pee
- swelling in one or both legs
- severe vaginal bleeding
“Because of my age I was still declined a smear and when the pains went they sent me home,” she said.
“My GP had sent two gynae referrals in the December and January but both were declined. All my symptoms have always been the same.
“And when I Googled them they always brought up cervical cancer.”
A third referral was accepted and a smear and scan confirmed Katie’s worst fears.
She was told that she had stage three cancer which had spread to both sides of her pelvis.
Katie began chemo last month, but docs don’t know how well she’ll respond to it yet.
Without treatment, her prognosis is just 18 months.
Now 25, she’s already set about making a bucket list.
Top of her list is marrying her partner of four years, Leighanne Prior.
The couple had planned to get hitched in Las Vegas in the next few years but following Katie’s diagnoses, they’ve decided to get wed next month at Middlesbrough Registry Office.
And in January, they’ll be honeymooning in the Maldives.
Another thing in the bucket list is to “finish all the Real Housewives series!”
Cheers For Smears
Fabulous has partnered with cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust to launch #CheersForSmears, a campaign aiming to ensure women across the UK attend their screenings, no matter what.
With around 3,200 women in the UK now being diagnosed with the disease every year – a number that is set to rise by around 40% within 20 years – and one in three dying from it, it’s clear we’re facing a cervical cancer time bomb.
Many say they can’t get convenient appointments to fit around their jobs.
In many surgeries, smear tests are only available at certain times or days, making it difficult for some women to book an appointment.
That’s why #CheersForSmears is calling on GPs to offer more flexible screening times and make testing available outside of office hours and at weekends.
We also want employers to play their part in helping to ensure that their female employees can attend potentially life-saving cervical screenings if they are unable to get an appointment outside of working hours.
Help get your employer involved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 5,000 women’s lives are saved a year in the UK by cervical screening
- 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year
- 99.8% of cervical cancer cases are preventable
- 870 women die every year in the UK from cervical cancer
- 1 in 142 UK females will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in their lifetime
- 25-29 years peak rate of cervical cancer cases
Leighanne, 30, has taken time off work to help take care of Katie.
She told Teesside Live that because the pair have a young nephew and another one on the way, Katie is worried about whether they’ll remember her.
“But most of the time, she’s so positive, she’s been amazing.”
All women and people with a cervix are invited for smear tests every three years from the age of 25 to 64.
A smear test isn’t a test for cervical cancer, but detects changes in the cells of the cervix which can be a precursor to the disease.
Finding abnormal changes early means they can be monitored or treated, so they don’t become cervical cancer.