WHEN Emma Keyes was diagnosed with cervical cancer, her whole world stopped in a split second. 

The mum-of-three looked on in disbelief as a gynaecologist uttered the dreaded words to her from behind a face mask.

Although the 29-year-old had prepared for the very worst, she still couldn’t believe the harrowing news that was being announced before her. 

“At that moment, everything changed and my whole world crashed”, she said.

“All I could think about was my kids. I was just so worried that I was going to die and leave my kids on this earth without a mum. 

“I thought, how can I bring these three beautiful little human beings into the world and then leave them behind me? 

“Every living and breathing part of me is for my children – they are my whole world.”

Since her smear test in April, Emma has undergone three biopsies, a colposcopy and a hysterectomy.

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She said: “Once I found out, I started thinking about the battle that lay ahead of me and everything that I would need to go through over the next few months.

“Instead of nesting for my one-year-old baby, I began nesting for cancer. 

“I started getting my home ready for my mum to stay and help out. Now here I am, and I have just had a hysterectomy.”

Keen to learn more about the life-threatening disease that she was prepared to battle, Emma began researching the cervical screening programme for people in Scotland.

She described her findings as “shocking”. 

“I feel bad saying that because the NHS is essentially saving my life but the waiting times are awful”, she said.

Figures released through Freedom of Information show that there is currently a 36-week wait for patients to be seen by a gynaecologist in Glasgow after abnormal cells are detected at a smear test. 

Emma added: “That 36-week wait could be the matter between life and death.

“I was two months late to my appointment and I dread to think what would happen if I had left it any longer. 

“Apparently a lot of women aren’t showing up to their appointments because they don’t want to wait any longer so instead, they’re going private.

“But the thing is, not everybody can afford to do this.”

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The daunting figures inspired Emma to launch a petition in favour of the roll-out of home testing smear kits across Scotland. 

The mum believes that the provision could save lives and prevent other women from undergoing hysterectomies and gruelling cancer therapies.

Her campaign has received almost 1500 signatures so far.

She said: “I’m lucky that I had had three children before all this, but what about the girls that aren’t at a stage in their life yet where they are ready to get pregnant? 

“I just don’t want any other woman to go through this, it is so preventable. If we have home testing kits in place, these deaths and all of these operations and chemotherapy sessions are unavoidable. 

“I’m doing this for my kids and for my friends and for every woman in Scotland.

“We are so busy as mums and as working women, we often don’t actually have the time to book the appointment so that is why it often goes missed.

“We are all so occupied and caught up with life it is hard for us to get away to an appointment. If women could just come home at night and take a quick test, it could be so straightforward.”

In June last year, a study at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary investigated the feasibility of home testing kits for cervical cancer.

The initiative has already proved to be a success in Denmark and Australia.  

Emma added: “We know that tests like these have been tried and tested elsewhere.

“The government knows they exist and that they work so why weren’t they rolled out when appointments were stopped due to Covid and GP surgeries were closed? 

“Having access to home testing kits could be life-changing – the cells would be caught early on and no other person would need to go through what I am going through.

“There are so many reasons for missed smear appointments – it could boil down to work schedules, religious reasons and language barriers. Having a test that you could simply take at home and send away just makes sense in the 21st century.”

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Last week, Emma received elating news that all cancerous cells had been successfully removed during her hysterectomy - meaning that she has the all-clear. 

She said: “I felt that a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and that I could live a worry-free life again. I had really been punishing myself and I felt so guilty for having my children – I kept thinking, I can’t believe I have had these kids and they might be left with no mum. I was prepared to take on this battle headfirst. My kids made it so much easier for me.

“But now, I am doing this for our sisters, aunties, friends, cousins and mums. There will be other children out there whose mums won’t be receiving the all-clear. There will be kids out there who lose their mums to this and it is completely preventable.

“Women shouldn’t be needing to undergo harsh cancer therapies, hysterectomies and we shouldn’t be losing our lives to something that is completely unavoidable.”

Figures from Public Health Scotland show that the number of people going for smear tests in Scotland is at its lowest rate in five years. 

The stats show only 69.3% of people offered an appointment between April 2020 and March 2021 took up the offer – which amounts to almost one million smear tests. 

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Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon said: “With cervical cancer screening rates at an all-time low, urgent action like home testing is needed to help reverse the trends.

“Despite her own cervical cancer diagnosis Emma Keyes is fighting for a home testing programme to help others, and I had no hesitation in supporting her lifesaving campaign.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Following the introduction of screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV) in Scotland’s cervical screening programme in March 2020, those who test negative for HPV will be invited for screening every five years. This is in line with recommendations from the independent UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) as the HPV test is more sensitive than the previous test. Those who have HPV in their sample continue to be screened more frequently.

“While home testing has potential to reduce barriers to uptake, such as embarrassment or accessibility challenges, the UK NSC has not yet recommended its introduction to national screening programmes and continues to gather evidence on its efficacy. While the cervical screening programme is recovering well, the measures to control the spread of COVID-19 continue to pose challenges. That is why we committed nearly £1 million in 2020/21 to support both screening and colposcopy services.”

Sign Emma’s petition by clicking HERE