Ex-nurse urges women not to miss smear tests after cancer diagnosis

With concerns that rates of cancer testing have fallen significantly during the pandemic, a former nurse in Cumbria is urging women not to miss their smear tests.

Tina Gilliland, who lives in Prospect near Aspatria, had to give up her career after being diagnosed with cervical cancer five years ago - her illness is terminal.

She went through 5 weeks of gruelling treatment but the cancer got worse.

Tina was diagnosed five years ago. Credit: Family photo

Tina said: “I thought I was in remission, then in 2017 I got the phone call to explain it had spread to my lungs.

"I had to start another 11 months of treatment which was really tough going. Because on each day that I went I had three different chemotherapies and I went every 3 weeks.

"It's just like picking up after the treatment and I had to go again and have more. It was hard going, but I got through it."

Her son Steven was living in Australia when the diagnosis came through. He and his fiance Becky McWilliams, rushed back to help take care of Tina.

Until then Becky had avoided taking her test herself - that quickly changed.

“I was so naive", she said. "I just thought, I'm young it won't happen to me and I didn't get tested.

"When we found out Tina has cervical cancer she heavily encouraged me to go for my smear. I went for my smear and I had to go for a biopsy as came back borderline severe and I had to get treatment myself.

"I really believe that my situation would have been a lot different and I could have been in the same situation as Tina."

Becky McWilliams Credit: ITV News

More than 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. But this year testing has lagged behind due to the pandemic.

Dr Rachel Orritt, from Cancer Research, said: "There is likely to be a backlog because appointments and tests have been delayed and more people will be due cervical screening then would be usual.

"But one of the most important things to remember is that people don't have to wait for cervical screening to wait to talk to their doctor particularly if you have any problems that are unusual for them or things that are normal."

Credit: PA

Tina remains positive, and says her diagnosis has not stopped her from living her life to the full,

She said: "I never thought when I was laying on my sofa sick really sick and thinking ‘my goodness is this what my life is going to be?’

"I didn't think there'd be a day when I could jump in the car myself, go up the Lakes walk around the Lakes, do all the things that I love to do.

"I didn't think I'd be able to do that again, and yes I've got cancer. And I don't know when it's going to come back, but that's not going to stop me living and it shouldn't stop you living because you can live with cancer."