Published on: 23 January 2024

For some people, the thought of attending cancer screening appointments can be daunting and many don’t know what to expect.

We’re hearing from real people from across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw about their experiences of cancer screening programmes.

Tracey Butler from Sheffield speaks to us about her experience of going for her cervical screening appointment and how it saved her life.

Hi Tracey, thanks for meeting with us today. You’re going to tell us about your cervical screening experience and why you always encourage others to go. Could you start by giving us a brief background please?

Hi, yes of course. For a bit of background on myself, I’m Sheffield born and bred. I have worked in healthcare for 14 years, the past 9 of which as Operational Manager for a GP practice in Sheffield.

I am always advocating for others to go for their cervical screening appointment as going for my smear saved my life.

I’m 45 now and my story happened in my 20s but if I hadn’t attended my appointment, I might not be here today to tell my story.

Can you tell us about your screening experience please? Were you apprehensive to go for your appointment?

I wasn’t nervous to go, it was a sort of right of passage in my friendship group and as I was one of the youngest, I was the last to be invited and I had been waiting for it. I had heard from my friends about their experience and so I wasn’t nervous to go.

It’s not necessarily a pleasant experience but it’s not painful either. The nurse put me at ease and talked me through everything she was doing, and it was over pretty quickly.

When my friends had been for their screening, they’d all had their results back quickly and there were no issues, so I wasn’t really worried about the results.

However, when they came back, it showed I had HPV and there were some abnormal cells showing so I was invited for a colposcopy, a test in hospital to examine my cervix for changes caused by HPV.

How did it make you feel having to go for that appointment?

I was obviously worried about what the outcome would be, but I knew I needed to go for it. I had heard a few horror stories about colposcopies, so I was nervous to go but I knew that going to get checked was the best option.

I needn’t have worried about the colposcopy procedure as the doctor was great and put me at ease throughout. I took my mum with me too which was helpful for me.

The colposcopy itself was ok, it wasn’t painful, but unfortunately, they did find precancerous cells. After the biopsy was taken, they explained that it was the highest grade of precancerous cells.

That must have been really worrying to hear. What was the next steps?

Yes, it was a really worrying time. The treatment was to remove the cancerous cells under general anaesthetic. Unfortunately, they had to take away a lot of my cervix to ensure all the cells were removed but it prevented me getting cancer, so it was worth it.

Following this, I had yearly cervical screens and I’m pleased to say they have all been clear since.

Great to hear you’ve got the all clear! Are there any reflections you have about this?

One thing I would say to women is if you are referred for further tests such as colposcopy to please go. It could show there is nothing there and you won’t need any further treatment, for many people referred for colposcopy, this is the case. But if you do need further treatment, you can get it sorted as soon as possible.

What advice would you give to women who are worried about going for their screening, or feel like they don’t need to?

I strongly encourage everyone that is invited to attend their appointment, I had no symptoms before my first screening so if I hadn’t have gone, cancer could have developed to a stage where it wasn’t treatable.

If you’re worried about the screening appointment, speak to your nurse about your worries. They will talk you through the process and make sure that you are as comfortable as possible.

I know some women are worried about going in case anything is found but the sooner any abnormalities are found, the better in terms of any preventative treatment.

I have heard that some women don’t think they need to go for screening because they haven’t been sexually active or have only had one partner, but HPV isn’t a sexually transmitted virus and you still need to be screened. Also, even if you have had the HPV vaccine, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to go to your screening appointment.

I continue to advocate for people going for their screening, in my practice and amongst my family and friends. This morning I have been speaking to one of my colleagues about going. It’s so important and could save your life!

Thank you for speaking to us today, Tracey!

For more information about cervical screening, please visit the links below:

Cervical screening - NHS (

Cervical screening (smear test) | Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust (