Cervical Screening Awareness Week

19th June 2024 12:00

Cervical Screening Awareness Week will run from June 17th to June 23rd

Cervical Screening Awareness Week will run from June 17th to June 23rd

19th June 2024

Cervical Screening Awareness Week takes place from June 17th to June 23rd and aims to raise awareness about the importance of cervical screening in preventing cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, yet it is still responsible for many deaths every year. Beatson Cancer Charity is committed to helping reduce the risk of cervical cancer by providing vital information and support to those who need it.

Each person's experience with cervical health is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to screening. Whether you're due for a screening or have already had a abnormal result, our team is here to help you navigate the process and provide guidance on what steps to take next.

We spoke with Pamela Orr, a 49-year old woman who has been impacted by cervical cancer from East Kilbride. She shared with us her personal story of dealing with a cervical cancer diagnosis and the importance of getting screened regularly. Hear her story and learn more about how you can take control of your cervical health during Cervical Screening Awareness Week.

PICTURED: Pamela Orr
Pamela Orr Picture


Can you tell me a bit about your cervical cancer diagnosis? When were you diagnosed/did you have symptoms leading up to the diagnosis/did a smear test identify it?

In March 2022, I started to bleed in between periods, but this was irregular and very light. Every three days or so, I would experience a slight bleeding. By April 2022, the bleeding had become a little heavier.

I was also feeling tired, but I assumed this was part of my recovery from a serious health issue I had experienced in 2020/2021, which required two major surgeries. However, the bleeding continued and I decided to reach out to my GP surgery, as I was due for a smear test anyway.

I was booked in for a smear test and the nurse took a sample despite the bleeding making it difficult. The results came back a couple of months later, stating that I was HPV positive. The letter explained that HPV is common and in most people, the body clears it on its own. I was advised to be screened again in 12 months.

However, by this point, the bleeding had become more frequent and heavier, happening every day. I discussed my concerns with my GP, as I wanted the bleeding investigated further. She arranged for me to see a specialist at the Menstrual Clinic at Wishaw General.

I attended the appointment alone and was initially convinced that the bleeding was a symptom of menopause or perimenopause. The staff were very kind and supportive, explaining the process to me before performing a colposcopy. Following this, I was advised that I needed to have a biopsy.

The results came back a few weeks later, revealing that I had cervical cancer, which would need to be staged. After undergoing an MRI and CT scan at my local hospital, my cancer was staged at 3C1. A PET scan was then required to ensure there were no further extensions into other organs or lymph nodes. Following the PET scan, I was officially diagnosed with stage 3CI and a treatment plan was put in place.

PICTURED: Pamela and Evan Orr
Pamela and husband Evan


What was your treatment like at The Beatson? How long were you treated for?

I had my PET scan at The Beatson in early December 2022. The staff at the PET Scan Centre were lovely and explained everything to me. They were very kind and supportive. I then met with my oncologist and cancer nurse at The Beatson around three weeks before treatment began, on December 21st, just before Christmas 2022.

My husband, children, and family were all very supportive, but I was still in disbelief that I was attending The Beatson and that I had cancer! From the moment I entered The Beatson, every member of staff was kind, empathic, and exceptionally knowledgeable. They prepared me and my husband for the next steps, treatments, and any questions we had. This allowed us to keep our family updated.

My oncologist was very informative and immediately put my mind at rest. She advised me that they were treating me to cure me and that I would not lose my hair with the type of chemotherapy I would receive. She answered all of my questions, and I appreciated her honesty.

From January to March 2023, I received around 28 rounds of radiotherapy each weekday for six weeks, five rounds of chemotherapy, and two overnight stays to receive high-dose radiation called Brachytherapy. Daily radiotherapy was challenging, but it was nice to have a routine and see the same people every day. I met some lovely people receiving treatment for various types of cancer, and some of them I still keep in touch with today.

The radiotherapy staff were lovely and always chatted with me, made me feel comfortable, and asked how I was coping with treatments. Chemotherapy was also challenging, but I reminded myself that it was life-saving. The nurses on the chemotherapy wards were lovely too. My final treatment was Brachytherapy, which required admission to the Brachytherapy ward. The nurses were reassuring, answering all of my questions and settling my mind.

I must note that the Beatson Cancer Charity donated money for the Brachytherapy rooms to be beautifully decorated. This made a huge difference to my experience. Each room had a beautiful mural and calming colors. During Brachytherapy, you're not allowed out of bed for around 30 hours, but the beautiful room made it more bearable.

I received blood transfusions at The Beatson as well as a hospital stay due to an infection. Again, the staff were brilliant! A special mention goes to the reception staff at Tom Wheldon Building during daily check-in for radiotherapy - they always greeted me with a smile and cheered me up every day! And a huge thank you to Cheryl, my oncologist's secretary, who still helps me with any questions I have today.

I rang the bell to signify the end of treatment around March 2023, but it's important to remember that while treatment may stop, your cancer journey continues for quite some time. You'll need support for a good while yet. I celebrated being cancer-free from cervical cancer around June 2023 and appreciate how lucky I am. However, my PET scan in 2022 highlighted another concern and I was diagnosed with a second primary cancer - thyroid cancer. I was treated for this cancer and in August 2023, I was declared cancer-free from both cancers! What a journey!

PICTURED (L-R): Pamela, Aimee and Liam Orr
Pamela, Aimee & Liam Orr


Did you use any of Beatson Cancer Charity’s patient support services e.g. Beatson  Café, Wellbeing Centre, Wig-fitting Service?

Beatson Cafe: I was exceptionally lucky to have my husband and family taking me to treatment each day, and they all used the cafe regularly. The staff are lovely, the prices are reasonable and the food is very tasty! The cafe is staffed by volunteers and they do a wonderful job!

Beatson Shop: I purchased many gifts from the shop, coffee cups, shopping bags, and beautiful glass heart ornaments as a thank-you to my family for their support. The gifts are extremely well-made and reasonably priced. Staff in the shop and office were always very helpful and greeted me with a smile. 

Volunteers: During my 1st chemotherapy session I was approached by a lovely lady, who chatted away to me on the ward. She could see I was nervous and she offered me a nice cup of tea. My tea, sandwiches, or snacks from 'The Beatson Trolley' were so appreciated during chemotherapy, however, they are more than a snack. The kindness of the volunteers and their chats became something I looked forward to every week. Attending treatment alone can be a daunting process, but staff and volunteers made it actually a lovely experience!  Please volunteers, never underestimate the wonderful work you do, the ripple effect lasts a long time I promise you!


What would be your advice to people regarding smear tests?

My advice regarding smear tests is to please attend your smear tests! Smear tests can pick up on early cancer cells and the HPV virus, which could lead to cancer. These tests save lives!  I appreciate people may feel nervous about the process, however each smear I have had I was treated with dignity and respect, with all staff being professional. We are very lucky to be able to be checked regularly through NHS please, please make use of this and every preventative test available to you.


If you have any concerns after reading our cervical screening awareness week post, head to the NHS Symptoms webpage for trusted advice and guidance.