A BASINGSTOKE mum who did not have a smear test for six years is urging women to stay up-to-date with cervical screening appointments after discovering she had cancer.

Natalie Riley failed to attend cervical screening appointments for six years, saying she never believed she would get cancer.

The mother-of-one from Oakridge found out in December last year that she had pre-cancerous cells in her cervix and the vulva.

She has since needed two operations this year to remove part of her cervix and vulva and is waiting for the results of tests to see if it has spread any further.

The 32-year-old said: “If I had gone for my smear tests, I probably wouldn’t have needed my cervix removed, they would have caught it sooner and it wouldn’t have spread as much as it did. I just thought ‘it will never be me’.

“No one wants their private parts out and that put me off, but that two to five minutes could save you months or a lifetime of agony and trauma. I’ve had to tell my family I’ve got cervical cancer.”

Her warning comes at the NHS has revealed that many women and those with a cervix in Hampshire are not attending cervical screening appointments.

Read more: Data shows thousands of women in Hampshire not attending smear test appointment

Natalie, who is a full-time carer to her five-year-old son, believes she has had pre-cancer in her vulva for 13 years.

She was sent away by GPs who told her it was thrush and genital warts before she Googled her symptoms to discover they matched those of cancer.

“On the vulva I had a dry patch of skin like an ulcer,” she explained, adding: “It was really sore and wouldn’t heal. I kept getting burning and itching but it was put down to thrush. It got worse so I went back and was told it was genital warts and I was given another treatment and cream.

“There was still no improvement but I thought the doctors can’t be wrong and maybe it’s something I need to live with.”

By December 2021 Natalie was struggling with the symptoms which left her unable to wear underwear, with pain during urination and swelling.

She said: “I went on Google and all the symptoms matched [cancer] and I thought ‘it’s got to be this’. I was referred to gynaecology and it wasn’t until I was then sent to oncology that the reality really hit.”

Natalie added: “They did a cervical smear because I hadn’t had one for six years. I had most of my cervix taken out and part of my vulva. It was very invasive and painful. Because of Covid and the restrictions it was a very scary thing to go through because no one could come to the appointments with me.”

Natalie is now waiting to find out if she will need further surgery if the pre-cancerous cells have spread.

She has also been advised that if she were to become pregnant it would be high risk.

“I’m on the road to recovery but it was a scary place to be,” she said, adding: “I might have gone on to have more children but I wouldn’t risk it now.”

The mum is now urging women and other people with a cervix not to make the same mistake she did, saying: “The earlier it’s caught the better chance you have of fighting it. My worst fear was that they would tell me was that I was going to die. You hear ‘cancer’ and you think ‘I’m going to die’. I thought ‘I can’t leave my little boy behind’.

"Don’t be like me and think it will never happen. Don’t think because you have a clear smear you won’t get it in the future.

“I’ve lost a lot of weight and my hair started falling out from the stress and now I’m kicking myself because I didn’t want a little swab.”

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