A mother has been diagnosed with cervical cancer after she waited 10 years go for a smear test and ignored appointment letters.
Kim Montgomery, 31, from Dunfermline, Fife, had her first screening when she was 21, the age women in Scotland were invited before a law change in 2016.
She said being pregnant with her four children ‘back to back’ for three years contributed to her putting off another test.
But after experiencing abnormal bleeding for nine months, Ms Montgomery finally decided she should have a smear test and said she ‘had a feeling’ she had cancer.
A smear test doesn’t spot cancer. Instead it looks for abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix that could develop into cancer.
Doctors found abnormal cells, and Ms Montgomery was later given the devastating news of cervical cancer on February 5 after a biopsy. She is still waiting for results about her prognosis.
The former hairdresser said if she had not ignored the reminder letters about her smear test for so long she wouldn’t be fighting cancer today.
Kim Montgomery, 31, from Dunfermline, Fife, is warning other women to have their smear tests, after she avoided having one for ten years and was diagnosed with cervical cancer
Ms Montgomery said being pregnant with her four children ‘back to back’ for three years contributed to her putting off another test. She is mother to Macaulay, three, Kayla, five, Lacey, six, and Dylan, 11, is worried about having to tell her children she is dying
Ms Montgomery said: ‘I didn’t think I was ever going to get cancer – I am only 31.
‘I got lots of reminders about going but I just ignored them.
‘I had been pregnant with my four children back to back for three years and you can’t have a smear test when you are pregnant.
‘That was a huge factor in why I didn’t get one for so long, but I also just didn’t realise how important it was.’
Ms Montgomery is now urging other women to attend screenings, even if they find it embarrassing.
The quick test involves having a plastic instrument called a speculum gently inserted into the vagina, before a nurse uses a soft brush to take samples of cells from the cervix.
The NHS cervical screening programme invites women aged between 25 and 64 for cervical screening. The test picks up changes that could develop into cervical cancer if left untreated, therefor prevented cancer.
Up until 2016, women in Scotland were requested to attend a smear test every three years when they reached 20 years old. This changed to 25.
Recalling her first smear aged 21, Ms Montgomery, said: ‘I remember it wasn’t nice so I wasn’t in a hurry to go back.’
Years passed, until Ms Montgomery started noticing she was bleeding from her vagina – a tell-tale sign of cervical cancer. It prompted her to finally go for a smear test.
Vaginal bleeding is very common and can have a wide range of causes, so is not necessarily a sign of cervical cancer. But Ms Montgomery said she had a sinister feeling.
She said: ‘I had abnormal bleeding for more than nine months and I am still bleeding now.
‘I was worried about it but I just kept putting it off until I thought enough is enough I have to go and get it done.
After experiencing abnormal bleeding for nine months, Ms Montgomery finally decided she should have a smear test and said she ‘had a feeling’ she had cancer
WHAT IS CERVICAL CANCER?
Cervical cancer affects the lining of the lower part of womb.
The most common symptom is unusual bleeding, such as between periods, during sex or after the menopause, but other signs can include:
- Pain during sex
- Vaginal discharge that smells
- Pain in the pelvis
Causes can include:
- Age – more than half of sufferers are under 45
- HPV infection – which affects most people at some point in their lives
- Smoking – responsible for 21 per cent of cases
- Contraceptive pill – linked to 10 per cent of cases
- Having children
- Family history of cervical or other types of cancer, like vagina
Source: Cancer Research UK
‘I had the smear test on December 20 and then in the new year I got a letter to say I had abnormal cells.
‘I thought right away it was cancer, I just had a feeling, but it wasn’t real until the doctors told me and I broke down.
‘You automatically think you are going to die.’
One in 20 women who have their smear test show abnormal changes to the cells of their cervix. In some cases, these need to be removed or can become cancerous.
Ms Montgomery had further investigations of the abnormal cells on her cervix, including a biopsy.
This confirmed she had cervical cancer. She became one of around 3,200 women in the UK diagnosed with the disease every year.
An estimated 852 women will die from the disease every year, according to Cancer Research UK.
In the US, 13,800 new cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed every year, and about 4,290 women will die.
Ms Montgomery said: ‘I was told the cancer is grade two, but I don’t know what stage it is or if it has spread.’
Ms Montgomery won’t know if the cancer has spread until the results of an MRI come back. The grading is a measure of how much the cancer cells look like normal cells – Ms Montgomery’s is two out of three.
She said medics fear she will need a hysterectomy – removal of her reproductive organs – and chemotherapy.
Ms Montgomery, mother to Macaulay, three, Kayla, five, Lacey, six, and Dylan, 11, is worried about having to tell her children she is dying if doctors give her a terminal diagnosis.
She said: ‘The doctors won’t be able to tell me how long I have had it, but if I had just gone for a test they would have caught it before it turned into cancer.
‘I didn’t want to tell my children until I found out if it’s terminal.
‘They know I am not well, and I have told my eldest who said right away “are you going to die”.
‘The doctors said they think I will need chemo and a hysterectomy. It’s really daunting and I wanted to have more children, but I just feel lucky I have my four.’
Ms Montgomery, who has worked as a hair extension technician, said: ‘Since I announced I have cancer on Facebook 19 women have said it’s encouraged them to go and have their smear test done.
‘I want to raise awareness of how important it is for people to have their smear test.
‘I hope me sharing my story means more lives can be saved.’
Ms Montgomery and her heartbroken partner, Dane Paten, 30, are now trying to raise money for ‘alternative treatment’.
You can donate here.
WHAT IS A SMEAR TEST?
A smear test detects abnormal cells on the cervix, which is the entrance to the uterus from the vagina.
Removing these cells can prevent cervical cancer.
Most test results come back clear, however, one in 20 women show abnormal changes to the cells of their cervix.
In some cases, these need to be removed or can become cancerous.
Being screened regularly means any abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix can be identified at an early stage and, if necessary, treated to stop cancer developing (stock image)
Cervical cancer most commonly affects sexually-active women aged between 30 and 45.
In the UK, the NHS Cervical Screening Programme invites women aged 25-to-49 for a smear every three years, those aged 50 to 64 every five years, and women over 65 if they have not been screened since 50 or have previously had abnormal results.
Women must be registered with a GP to be invited for a test.
In the US, tests start when women turn 21 and are carried out every three years until they reach 65.
Changes in cervical cells are often caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be transmitted during sex.
In January 2018, women shared selfies with smeared lipstick on social media to raise awareness of the importance of getting tested for cervical cancer in a campaign started by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
Celebrities including model and socialite Tamara Ecclestone, former I’m A Celebrity! star Rebekah Vardy and ex-Emmerdale actress Gaynor Faye joined in to support the #SmearForSmear campaign.
Socialite Tamara Ecclestone supported the Jo’s Trust’s #SmearForSmear campaign