Leyland woman diagnosed with cervical cancer aged just 24 after being refused smear test for being 'underage'
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Mother of two Courtney Leigh Gibbons is campaigning for the smear test age which currently stands between 25-65 to be reduced to 21 after being diagnosed with cervical cancer that has now spread as it wasn't caught sooner.
She has had abdominal open surgery to have her womb, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, appendix and lymph nodes removed, meaning she cannot have any more children.
Courtney is now keen to share her story in a bid to change the law and help other women from suffering the same fate.
She told the Post: "A year ago I noticed unusual bleeding and spotting.
"When I went to the doctors the gynaecologist told me I wasn't allowed a smear due to my age and not to worry and it was something of nothing.
"I was told I probably had an STI and I then informed the doctor that this would be impossible as I hadn't had sex for a year!
"I went back multiple times because I knew something wasn’t right, every time I picked my son up, coughed, went to the toilet I would spot some blood.
"They kept giving me Norethistorone pills that stop bleeding but I told them this wasn’t good enough and that I wanted to know why I am bleeding not for them to just stop it."
What did Royal Preston Hospital say?
Picking up another patient's cancellation appointment, Courtney held her ground and managed to get into Royal Preston Hospital where she was seen at the colonoscopy department and finally diagnosed with cervical cancer.
As there were a lot of abnormalities on her cervix, she was then rushed in for an abdominal hysterectomy - a procedure which removes your uterus through an incision from the top to the bottom of her stomach.
She added: "I had to have my lymph nodes, uterus, womb, fallopian tubes and my appendix removed because the cancer had unfortunately spread.
"The smear age needs to be reduced to 21 so women can make their own choice.
"Two years ago I was diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells in London. This should have been checked on my medical notes.
Why has Courtney given her cancer a human name?
"I have named the cancer 'Frank' to explain it to my four-year-old son Kamiy and five-year-old daughter Ariah who both attend St Anne's Catholic Primary in Leyland.
"They keep asking has Frank gone away yet?"
Post surgery Courtney suffers with extreme stomach cramping, spasms and has difficulty using the toilet, and now faces a two week wait to find out if she is 'Frank' free.
Refusing to let 'Frank' win, Courtney, who works as an mental health activity co-ordinator at Lostock Rest Home, is now on leave but worked until the day before her operation and has set up a blog on her Facebook bravely charting her experience for others.
What is a smear test?
The Pap or Papanicolaou test is a method of cervical screening used to detect potentially precancerous and cancerous processes in the cervix or colon.
Abnormal findings are often followed up by more sensitive diagnostic procedures and, if warranted, interventions that aim to prevent progression to cervical cancer.
Cervical screening is available to women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 in England. All eligible people who are registered with a GP (as female) automatically receive an invitation by mail.
Asked if she feels anger for having her concerns dismissed and knowing she can no longer have any more children, she added: "Asking for a smear test was such a fight and struggle for me to get checked - this should not be the case.
"I feel less of a woman. My feminine side has gone as I can't have anymore children. That choice has been taken away from me.
"It's a bit strange to say that I am only 24 but can't have any more children.
"I am awaiting results in the next two weeks to find out whether I am cancer free. If not then I will have to start radio/chemotherapy.
"Having two children takes my mind off waiting to find out and also trying to help others and fighting for women's rights.
"I hope my story makes people realise the importance of smears. Unfortunately I am only 24 so didn’t qualify for one which is why I want the age reduced to 21. As soon as you are sexually active you are at risk.
"No matter how old you are if you know something is not right then you know your body better than anyone else.
"Don’t settle, stand your ground and tell them you need to be seen.
"Live life while you can, because you never know which second is going to be your last."
Courtney will not be 25 - the age allowed for a smear test, until June next year - an age between life or death if she had not persevered.
A spokesman for Royal Preston Hospital declined to comment when approached by the Post.