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Woman Who Put Off Two Smear Tests Has Urged Others Not To Do The Same After She Was Left Infertile

Woman Who Put Off Two Smear Tests Has Urged Others Not To Do The Same After She Was Left Infertile

Leanne was diagnosed with cervical cancer on her 29th birthday.

Lucy Devine

Lucy Devine

Note: This article was originally published in March 2021

A woman has urged others not to delay their smear test after she developed cervical cancer that has left her infertile.

Leanne Shields, from Norfolk, was just 29 when she was told she had a 7cm tumour. After months of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy, a type of internal radiotherapy, Leanne went into early menopause, meaning she can no longer have children.

Now, she's urging others not to delay their screenings, after she missed two before the cancer was detected.

Leanne was just 29 when she was told she had a 7cm tumour (
Triangle News)

"It's so important for women to get a smear test," Leanne said.

"I always thought I didn't need it, that won't affect me, and then when you find out you so wish you had gone. I wouldn't wish what has happened to me over the past few months on my worst enemy."

Leanne was invited for her first smear at the age of 25 - the minimum age women are invited by the NHS. After the age of 25, women are invited for a smear every three years.

Sadly, Leanne missed both her test at 25 and her next check-up at 28.

She said: "I didn't have it done because I was embarrassed of someone else looking at my bits. I thought 'I won't get it, I don't need it."

But in March last year, Leanne started to suffer from stomach symptoms, like trapped wind.

She explained: "I had no symptoms whatsoever, the only thing I had was a funny stomach.

"I'd get a bellyache now and again, it was like trapped wind and you wouldn't put that down to cervical cancer.

"I was still going to work and I felt normal in myself. Then in March I felt under the weather, not well. I thought it was my contraceptive pill so they changed it."

Sadly, Leanne missed both her test at 25 and her next check-up at 28 (
Triangle News)

However not long after, Leanne began bleeding between periods.

The bleeding became constant and continued until October, but she was reassured that it was probably the new pill she was taking that was playing with her hormone levels.

"From March up until October I was bleeding every day," Leanne said.

"I was seriously anaemic. I went to the doctors and they'd said they'd do a smear but they looked and couldn't do it as there was something there stopping them getting the speculum in.

"I had a tumour that was 7cm. I then got a phone call on my 29th birthday - the 21st of October - and I went to the hospital and was called into a side room.

"I thought I was just going in to get some results and she sat me down and looked at me and said 'I'm really sorry but you have Stage 2 cervical cancer'."

Within two days Leanne was sent to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and was given a treatment plan. She went through five weeks of chemotherapy, a month of radiotherapy every day and a two-week break before brachytherapy, which uses radiotherapy internally.

She also needed five blood transfusions and lost two and a half stone.

Leanne lost two and a half stone (
Triangle News)

"I felt horrific. Sick, tired and dizzy," she said.

"I couldn't go out because I felt like I was going to faint every time. I couldn't be anywhere without a toilet because I was being sick. I was just in bed all the time."

Doctors couldn't remove the tumour for fear it would spread, so it was hoped the chemotherapy would shrink its size.

"I wouldn't want to see another woman go through that. It was degrading, gruelling, just horrendous and awful," she said.

"And with the pandemic I couldn't take anyone to hospital with me. I had no-one to comfort me, I did the whole thing on my own.

"There were days I wanted to end my life. I thought I wanted to die, I couldn't cope with how horrible the treatment was. I'm 29 and I'm now going through the menopause. That means I can't ever have my own child.

"It has been hard and this is why it needs to get out there. I did want my own children but now I can't. My ovaries have had it."

Leanne is in recovery, and has a CT and MRI scheduled for April, with results due in May.

"I am lucky that I'm still alive and what the hospital has done for me, I cannot thank them enough, but it is devastating at my age," she said.

She says she owes her life to Dr Debashis Biswas at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and also a debt of gratitude to her employers and family member Karl Bensley who drove her to and from appointments.

Leanne says if she had had her smear tests she might not be in this position. "They might have picked it up," she explained.

Leanne went through early menopause and is now unable to have children herself (
Triangle News)

"I'm a strong believer I have had this for a good couple of years and I put two smear tests off because I was scared. They would have picked it up when I was 28.

"Think about what you want your life to be. If you want to be a mum get your smear test or you could end up like me and not be able to have your own children.

"Any person who is having sex should have a smear test. It shouldn't matter what age you are. I think it should be brought forward to the age of 18.

"I have a sister who is 20 and it would break my heart if she had cancer now having not been able to have a smear test."

Rebecca Shoosmith, Acting Chief Executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "Cervical screening is a really important test which can stop cervical cancer from ever starting.

"It helps us to detect who is at higher risk and offer treatment. It's not always an easy test for many reasons ranging from previous bad experiences, to embarrassment, to difficulty getting an appointment, to cultural barriers.

"However, it's a test which could save your life. We want everyone who is eligible to know that if they have any questions or worries about going to cervical screening, they're not alone, and there is information and support available.

"Our national Helpline is on 0808 802 8000."

Featured Image Credit: Triangle News

Topics: Smear Test, Life News, News, Cervical Cancer, Health