Almost ten years after the death of reality TV star Jade Goody, cervical cancer screenings, also known as a smear tests, have been at an all-time low with one in four women not attending their tests.
Public Health England have released an advertising campaign in a bid to try and get more women to attend their cervical screening tests.
Getting a smear test as early as possible will detect any cell abnormalities before the cancer has a chance to develop so it’s crucial that you get tested.
When she was just twenty-years-old, Jackie McKenzie of Sneyd Green found out that she had pre-cancerous ovarian cells.
Twenty-five years later she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a rare form of breast cancer which she described as ‘aggressive’.
Triple negative breast cancer accounts for 10-20 percent of all breast cancers.
“I didn’t have any lump, I just had a sharp pain. I went to the doctors and they sent me home and said come back in three months, but I insisted on being seen. Within two weeks it had gone from no lump to 5cm.
“It was very strange, but I took it quite calmly. You know your own body and you know something is wrong.
“I thought I’m going to fight this and I’m going to get through it and was quite positive all the way through mine.
“I kept it inside because I knew I was going to be treated, I was on that treadmill then, so I was quite confident that I was going to be okay.
“I did have my ups and downs mainly when I was on my own and not with anybody.”
Despite the intense treatments and being incredibly poorly she spent as much time as she could with her friends and family throughout her treatment.
“It was a cycle of being ill, not feeling too bad, feeling great and then back to being ill.
“The affect is massive and it’s not just yourself you think about. You think about everyone around you because they see you in that condition.”
Now at fifty-years-old, Jackie feels good despite having aches and pains because of the chemotherapy.
After finishing her treatment, she should have been celebrating as she had the rest of her life to live but instead was in fear of the cancer coming back and she found there was no support after the treatment.
“Having that fear and not having anybody to talk to who have been in my position, you need that because it gives you hope that you’ve got a future, once you’ve had cancer that’s the first thing you think of, will I die?”
The lack of support prompted her to start the Pink Sisters group in September 2015, a Northwood based support group for cancer patients.
It doesn’t matter if it’s breast cancer, ovarian cancer or any other cancer, the group is open to everyone, including men.
The group has helped a lot of women and has offered support through talking at their monthly meetings.
“There was one lady who was suicidal. She had the diagnosis and just couldn’t get it out of her head.
“I spent four hours with her and got her out of the mindset that you are going to die and now she’s the life and soul of the party. She’s living and loving life completely and that’s because of Pink Sisters.
“All of them are so inspirational and such strong ladies.”
The government has launched its first smear test advertising campaign in England after the number of women having checks hit a twenty-year low.
The campaign run by Public Health England, is avoiding the term ‘smear test’ as it may be putting some women off having it done.
The test is free on the NHS for women aged between 25 and 64.
Mackenzie stressed the importance of having it done as it could be a matter of life or death. She said: “It’s one of those areas where you’re at a young age and it’s embarrassing to go and have a smear. It doesn’t take five minutes to do.
“Older women are more well informed because they’ve been there and done that. It’s the younger generation where it needs to be pushed more because like I say, it’s quite a personal thing.
“It’s not pleasant but it’s not painful and it’s a necessity and something that could save your life.”
The Pink Sisters group continue to do their work of raising awareness of cancer and supporting patients through what can be a difficult time.
On March 30th,there will be a performance of their charity single ‘Next to you’ at Asda Tunstall.
Watch the cervical screening campaign below: