Woman's surprise diagnosis after coming home from holiday in Spain to 'urgent letters'


A woman was shocked to discover “urgent letters” from the NHS on her doorstep when she returned home from holiday after going for a routine smear test that had been postponed. Sarah Waters, 31, from Prescot, presumed everything was normal and jetted off to Spain on holiday after the test. But once she returned home, she found letters from the NHS after being referred to hospital.

She was given the devastating diagnosis of cervical cancer on June 22.

Sarah said: “I was in utter shock as I never thought it would be me that got cancer, especially at this age – it didn’t hit me for some time. I still can’t believe it now, even having gone through surgery and treatment.”

Sarah underwent a full hysterectomy towards the end of 2022, but was dealt another blow when doctors found the cancer was “more aggressive” than they thought and it had started to spread. She was told her cancer was at stage three.

Sarah believes there should be more awareness and education around the importance of detecting HPV, and its risk of developing into cervical and gynaecological cancers.

She said: “Often online it says that cervical cancer is slow growing, and can take up to a decade to develop. However, it hasn’t been that way in my case, as it is the fast growing type.

“So even if you have no symptoms or your last smear was normal, it doesn’t mean that your next one will be. Even if you don’t have cancer, if a screening has picked up any abnormalities, it gives the medical experts the chance to treat it before it develops into cancer.”

Sarah has taken to social media to share her story, and thousands have followed her journey. She said: “My care has been fantastic, between Whiston Hospital, Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. From receiving the letters regarding the smear results, to now in my first month post-treatment, all the staff have been amazing, so caring and sensitive to my needs, and always checking in on me and my family.”

Sarah has shared her story to help raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, the annual campaign organised by the cervical cancer charity Jo’s Trust.

READ MORE: Mum watched her baby ‘take final gasp’ as medics fought to save her

Cervical screening (also referred to as a smear test) which looks for the human papilloma virus (HPV), is offered to all women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64, with first appointments offered shortly after their 25th birthday. Smear tests are usually carried out at the GP surgery by a female nurse.

Despite the potentially life-saving benefits of cervical screening, fewer than seven in 10 people in the North West who were eligible for cervical screening attended their appointments June 2021 to June 2022, reports the ECHO.

Helen Dickinson, Deputy Head of Public Health for NHS England – North West said: “Cervical screening is so important, and it is one of the best ways that you can protect yourself from cervical cancer. Routine cervical screening is all about prevention, so if there are any changes or abnormalities, we can monitor and treat them, before they ever turn into cancer.

“Please don’t ignore your invite for cervical screening. We recognise that it can be uncomfortable or embarrassing, and that you have busy lives, but everything will be done to make your appointment as comfortable and convenient as possible.”


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