Inspiring Leeds cancer survivor, 29, warns of risks of missing lifesaving smear tests

Cancer looked to have decimated Sarah Donaghey’s hopes of a family when she was just 25.

By Jonathan Brown
Thursday, 15th October 2015, 10:41 am
Sarah Donaghey, 29, from Birstall, is urging women not to miss their smear tests. Picture by Simon Hulme.
Sarah Donaghey, 29, from Birstall, is urging women not to miss their smear tests. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Her routine smear test came back all clear in January 2011 but after months of unexplained bleeding she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and advised to have a radical hysterectomy – a move that left her unable to carry children.

Four years on, the 29-year-old sales administrator is engaged to be married and hoping to adopt, while plans for a baby through a surrogate using her own frozen IVF embryos are put on hold after a failed attempt through her own mother.

Thankful for all that she has, Sarah, who lives in Birstall, is now urging women to attend appointments for smear tests with NHS Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group.

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“It’s made me appreciate what I’ve got, and realise that people who don’t go for their smears are taking their lives in their own hands,” she said.

“When I was diagnosed I wasn’t aware of the symptoms and I was lucky enough for it to be caught at the right time.”

The ‘15 Minutes Could Save Your Life’ campaign, launched at Hyde Park Surgery, Craven Road Medical Practice and Burley Park Medical Centre, is encouraging women to keep GPs up to date with their details and consider meeting with nurses to discuss smears to break down misconceptions. Sarah also runs an informal support group called ‘Do Not Fear the Smear’ on Facebook.

Having had her womb, cervix and lymphnodes removed in 2012, Sarah still hopes to have children of her own but is first enjoying life with her fiance and stepdaughter Lola. She said: “At first I wanted to rush everything and do it then but now we are just taking out time and looking after ourselves first.”

Every day in the UK eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and three women lose their lives to the disease.

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Cervical screenings are offered by the NHS to improve people’s chances of spotting cancer early.

The national screening programme for cervical cancer, which saves around 5,000 lives a year, invites women aged 25 to 49 for a screening once every three years. Women who are aged 50 to 64 are then invited for tests once every five years.

Symptoms include post menopausal bleeding or bleeding after sex, unusual vaginal discharge, pain during sex and lower back pain.