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East Lancashire cervical cancer victim campaigns for annual smear tests
AN INSPIRATIONAL cancer sufferer has called for smear tests to be offered to women annually.
Primary school teacher Kathy Nutter was diagnosed with cervical cancer last year — two years after her last NHS scan.
Around 1,000 women die from the disease each year in the UK and it is the most common cancer in women aged 20 to 29.
Kathy, whose tumour was the size of a lemon when it was discovered, said it was ridiculous that she was only due for her next routine check now.
She wants smear tests to be offered every year and before the age of 25.
And she has been backed by the MPs for Burnley and Hyndburn, who believe the move could save the NHS money in the long run.
Women in Scotland, Wales and Ireland are invited to go for a smear test, which checks for cervical cancer, at the age of 20, but in England that invitation is not offered until a woman is 25.
They are then offered a new scan every three years until the age of 65.
Kathy’s cancer was only detected because she complained to her GP about unusual bleeding.
The 31-year-old, of Bridgefield Street, Hapton, said: “I wasn’t due another test until now, but if I can develop a tumour the size of a lemon in two years, then they should give them every year. I’m living proof of that.
“You should be having the tests as soon as you’re 16 I think.”
Up to 18,000 women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer in Britain every year and, of these, 7,500 will die.
Cervical screening, including the cost of treating cervical abnormalities, has been estimated to cost around £157 million a year in England.
After Kathy was diagnosed she underwent 20 gruelling sessions of radio-therapy, four sessions of chemotherapy and 15 hours of internal radiotherapy.
She was told she would never be able to have children, but she was relieved when the cancer went into remission. However, she has now been affected by a secondary cancer.
Kathy, who teaches maths to underachieving students at St John Southworth Primary School, Nelson, said: “My legs swelled up so they sent me for a scan.
"They realised that it was caused by a secondary cancer that had wrapped itself around a vein at the top of my leg in my groin area.”
The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has previously said that lowering the age when smear tests are offered is not in the Government’s plans.
"This followed a high-profile campaign to reduce the age following the death of reality TV star Jade Goody who battled the disease.
Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said: “This is a terrible illness for the individual concerned and early detection is absolutely vital.
"We are all aware of what the consequences can be, they can be fatal.
“It is often far more cost effective to have early treatment of cancer than to try and deal with it in the latter stages, which can be very, very expensive.”
Gordon Birtwistle, MP for Burnley, which includes the Hapton area, said he believed money could be saved on “bureaucracy” in the NHS and spent on things like this.
He said: “I think it is a good idea. Obviously we would have to look at how it was done and how it was funded, but any money that is spent on health I encourage.”
Nelle Barrie, senior science communications officer at Can-cer Research UK, said the Government based its screening programme on the experience of hundreds of thousands of women. She said: “It’s really difficult to come to a clear opinion when looking at an individual case and then what evidence a big clinical trial shows, and they have to decide what is the best way for the NHS to invest hundreds of thou-sands of pounds.”
Kathy, who is set to marry her fiancé Carl Morris, 39, next year, writes a blog posted via the Macmillan Cancer Support website, in which she describes every step of her treatment to help others.
She said: “It hasn’t spread to my bones, my lungs or anything like that.
"I’m determined to maintain a positive attitude."