‘If I had put off smear test I would no longer be alive’

A LOCAL school nurse could have died from cervical cancer if she had put off her regular smear test by just a few weeks.

School nurse Katie Hill, left, shares her story surviving cervical cancer and is now advocating regular screenings. She is pictured with Diane Matthews, Public Health practitioner for screenings. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 30424346)
School nurse Katie Hill, left, shares her story surviving cervical cancer and is now advocating regular screenings. She is pictured with Diane Matthews, Public Health practitioner for screenings. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 30424346)

Katie Hill, 37, has shared her experience in a bid to encourage people to attend their appointments.

Describing cervical cancer as a ‘silent killer’, Mrs Hill said she had no symptoms and no reason to worry when she presented for a regular screening seven years ago.

The only thing that saved her life was a screening test.

At just 31 years old, Mrs Hill, now a local school nurse, was living in the UK and had just started a new job.

When she received her invitation from the NHS for her regular screening, she picked up the phone and booked an appointment on her birthday because she already had the day off work.

‘If it wouldn’t have been my birthday, I’d have probably put it off because I had just started a new job,’ she said.

However, if she had delayed the test by just a few more weeks, she said she probably would not have been able to talk about her experiences now.

‘After the operation, my doctor told me if I had waited until the second invitation letter, I’d have definitely needed chemo, and I’d have only had a 50% chance of survival.

‘If I had waited for the next reminder letter, I’d probably be gone,’ she said.

Within days of her initial screening test, Mrs Hill was booked for major surgery to remove her cervix and other reproductive organs.

Mrs Hill said her entire cervix was cancerous, and although she was diagnosed with stage one cancer, it was only weeks away from spreading to other parts of her body.

‘With other diseases, you get symptoms and you present at your doctor’s for a diagnosis. With cervical cancer, there’s no rhyme or reason. It’s so unpredictable. Some, like me, have no other symptoms at all.

‘By the time cervical cancer presents with symptoms, it’s too late,’ she said.

‘The screening is there for a reason – and it works.’

The appointment takes only about five minutes, and although it can feel uncomfortable and

invasive for some, Mrs Hill said it is far less invasive than the

surgeries and procedures she experienced as a result of her cancer.

‘The fallout of not going to your screening is huge,’ she said.

Diane Mathews, Public Health practitioner for screening, said the most recent Guernsey screening statistics showed approximately 60% uptake in 25 to 49-year-olds, and a slightly higher uptake among 50 to 65-year-olds.

Mrs Mathews said it was her job to boost uptake and get that missing 40% in for screenings.

‘Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and it only takes a few minutes to get tested,’ said Ms Mathews.

Cervical screening programme is for all people with a cervix aged 25 to 49 every three years, and aged 50 to 65 every five years.

The cervical screening test is highly effective as it detects the presence of human papillomavirus – HPV – in the cervix and ensures early abnormalities or early signs of cervical cancer are identified and treated earlier.

Mrs Mathews said HPV is the cause of nearly all cervical cancers because it can cause abnormal cells which can develop into cancer.

Each year in Guernsey and Alderney, approximately five new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed with approximately one or two deaths from cervical cancer recorded per year.

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