Cervical cancer survivor Hayley Lewis in her garden in Stockport

Cancer survivor Hayley from Stockport is speaking out about having cervical cancer to raise awareness during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week which runs from 23 to 29 January.

Hayley Lewis, a support worker, from Stockport, booked her routine cervical screening test (often known as a ‘smear test’) in January last year after receiving her invite from the NHS.

Hayley Lewis from Stockport

The busy mum-of-one had initially put the letter to one side. But when a reminder letter came, she booked the appointment. It turned out to be a very important decision.

Hayley said: “I had no symptoms but went for the routine smear test after getting my letter and a reminder letter. When I had my test done the nurse said my cervix looked inflamed.”

Cervical screening helps prevent cervical cancer by checking for a virus called high-risk HPV and cervical cell changes. It is not a test for cancer. The majority of women and people with a cervix who go for screening do not need further investigation. Those who do, often have pre-cancerous cells removed and are then monitored without further action.

However, in Hayley’s case further investigations were needed. She was referred to Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport for further tests and had a colposcopy – where a specialist nurse or doctor takes a closer look at the cervix (the opening to the womb from the vagina). She was then referred to The Christie Hospital where the doctor told her she had cervical cancer, which fortunately had been caught early. Hayley had surgery – a hysterectomy (an operation to remove the uterus) at The Christie, which was successful in removing the cancer. As a result, she didn’t require any further treatment such as chemotherapy.

Hayley said: “I’m so glad I went for my appointment. I didn’t have any symptoms or anything that screamed out to me to suggest something was wrong, so it was such a shock to learn I had cervical cancer. It all happened so fast. I went from having the test to having my treatment all within a month so there was a lot to get my head around! I have a 12-year-old boy and that kept going through my head. I just kept thinking I will do whatever treatment they advise to make sure I can see my son grow up. I always had a bit of a fear of going for my cervical screening. I’m lucky I went for it when I did. I believe it definitely saved my life. If I hadn’t gone, I’d still be sat here not knowing. I think a lot of people fear it, but I’m absolute proof you should go.”

Hayley now has regular check-ups with the gynaecology team at The Christie, is cancer-free and doing well.

Hayley said: “If you get your cervical screening letter don’t hesitate to go and get it done. It’s a matter of life and death and it really could save your life!”

Estimates suggest 83% of cervical cancer deaths could be prevented if all those who are eligible attended cervical screening when invited by the NHS*. Avoiding smoking and ensuring that young people (both boys and girls) receive the HPV vaccination could also help reduce risk even further in the future.