A woman has sounded a smear test warning to others after nearly losing her life to cancer having avoided checks for years due to her embarrassment.
Devastated Charlene Donaldson was told she had cervical cancer six years ago.
She discovered the harrowing news after avoiding her own cervical screening for a number of years.
The 38-year-old, from Tameside, Manchester, had to undergo four gruelling weeks of radiotherapy, before chemotherapy.
The treatment was followed by Brachytherapy, a type of internal radiation therapy that is often used to treat cancers of the cervix.
Continuing her recovery, she told the Manchester Evening News things would have been so much simpler had she not dodged the tests.
Now she has urged others to cast aside any self-consciousness and get themselves booked in.
Charlene said: “You don’t think you’ll be diagnosed with cervical cancer as ‘it will never happen to you!’ — well, it did to me.
“I could have died, all for the sake of being a little embarrassed.
“When I actually went to the doctors to have my cervical screening, having avoided them for years, it was actually nowhere near as bad as I was expecting.
“Someone had told me years ago that having cervical screening felt like they had their insides ripped out, so that put me right off going to have a test.”
Despite accepting she is a very private person, and finding the procedure uncomfortable, Charlene has now changed her mind totally.
She told other she she would rather have 100 smear tests over one session of Brachytherapy.
Charlene added: “I was given the all clear following the cancer treatment and had to use a dilator for a couple of years. I am now on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) due to the treatment putting me through an early menopause and I was offered the opportunity to have my eggs frozen.
“It has also given me Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) but the main thing is that I am alive and consider myself very lucky and stupid to be scared of having a smear.”
Now, Charlene is supporting efforts to get more women to come forward and get their smear test.
Health officials also say that, despite widespread uptake of the HPV vaccine among adolescent girls, adults should still book an appointment.
Dr Joanne Bircher, GP at Lockside Medical Centre has also appealed to those with a cervix who don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth to book an appointment.
“Cervical screening is important for anyone who has a cervix regardless of background, beliefs or sexuality,” she said.
Cervical screening is a free health test that helps prevent cervical cancer. Women are strongly urged to have regular cervical screening. It supports the detection of changes in cells that may become cancer and is estimated to save 4,500 lives in England each year.
The National Screening Programme invites women aged 25-49 to arrange screening appointments at their GP practice every 3 years and those aged 50-64 every 5 years.