A WOMAN who delayed a cancer test for 15 years and then found out she had the disease is urging others not to put off their examination.
Susie Sexton, 49, says she didn't appreciate the link between cervical screening and cancer. But Susie said her GP told her that finally taking a test saved her life.
She reckons it's older woman who need to be targeted by health awareness campaigns because younger women are more educated about the risks.
She believes that since the death from cervical cancer of TV celebrity Jade Goody in 2009, at the age of 27, many young women are more aware of the disease.
New research has shown that women over the age of 50 who do not attend screenings are six times more likely to develop cervical cancer than those whose tests have been normal.
Susie's daughter Maria, 25, found out she had pre-cancerous cells on her first smear test at the age of 21, a few weeks before she herself was told she had cancer. Now, as national Cervical Cancer Prevention Week gets under way this weekend Susie, a mum-of-three from Motherwell, is urging women to make an appointment, if their test is overdue.
She said: "My doctor asked me: 'When was the last time you had a smear test?'
"I almost slid off my chair. I hadn't had a test for 15 years.
"I didn't think I had appreciated the link between my smear test and cancer.
"Older women need to get the message. I think younger women are more educated."
Susie's first smear test came back clear.
However, she was taken into hospital for more detailed tests on Christmas Eve 2010, after a follow-up test three years later.
A week later, Susie was told to go into hospital and doctors delivered the devastating news that she had cervical cancer.
Scans showed a 3.2cm tumour. She was told that she needed a hysterectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Susie, who has lost two close friends recently to cancer, didn't tell her children Maria, 25, Ryan, 22 and Declan, 21, about her diagnosis until after the surgery because she didn't want to worry them.
She said: "The doctor told me 'I'm sorry to tell you, it's cancer.
"Initially they didn't think the tumour was as big as it was. When they opened me up the surgeon thought he might have to close me up again but he was able to do a radical hysterectomy."
Cervical screening saves 5000 lives every year in the UK but more than one in five of women invited fail to attend.
All women aged 20-60 across Scotland are invited to have a test every three years.
A study from Cancer Research UK scientists found women who fail to have smear tests over 50 have a much higher chance of developing the disease compared with other women the same age who have a history of normal screening results.
Susie, who is now in remission, said: "My daughter had to have cells frozen off. It was about the same time that Jade Goody was going through cancer.
"I would say to women, please don't think anything of it, get it done. My GP told me it saved my life.
"I feel as if I've been given a second chance, I'm so grateful."