A WOMAN who has battled cervical and breast cancer has encouraged people to attend potentially lifesaving checks for the condition.

Margaret Mills, from Blackburn, found out she had cervical cancer after having a smear test in 1980 while a routine mammogram showed she had breast cancer in 2005.

Now after living to tell the tale, she is urging people to attend screening appointments for cancer.

She has spoken out as new figures shows the number of patients attending screening appointments for cancer in Blackburn with Darwen is below the national average.

NHS data shows that just 73.3 per cent of women aged 25-64 in 2017/18 in the Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area had been screened in the last five years for cervical cancer against an England average of 75.2 per cent.

Patients attending appointments for bowel and breast cancer screening in the borough is also below the national average.

Ms Mills, who is backing a campaign to encourage people to talk about cancer, said: “I think this campaign will encourage people to talk about their thoughts and experiences and dispel some of the fears surrounding the word ‘cancer’.

“I am a cancer patient having had a smear test in 1980 which resulted in me finding out I had cervical cancer, so I had to have operations. Then in 2005, a routine mammogram showed I had breast cancer which again required surgery and other treatment.

She added: “Through attending these screening appointments, I received an early diagnosis and my treatment was successful. I have seen my daughters and grandchildren grow up and I now have a great grandson.

“The more we talk about it the more likely that someone will go and see their GP, have their smear or go for a scan. It’s better to be safe than sorry!”

The ‘Let’s Talk Cancer’ campaign has been launched by the cancer team at Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire CCGs.

It aims to support people to talk about their thoughts, feelings and experiences of cancer to improve prevention, screening, care and outcomes of cancer and encourage professionals to communicate clearly with patients about cancer.

Dr Neil Smith, cancer lead across Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire CCGs, said: “The word cancer can create fear and negative emotions. By talking about it we identify these feelings and it helps to put things into perspective. Through the campaign we are also trying to encourage health professionals to be more open with patients, exploring their concerns and offering clear information.

“Talking and understanding creates action. We are hoping that making cancer part of everyday conversations will support people to attend appointments for cancer screening and tests or hospital reviews for suspected cancer. The earlier cancer is detected, the quicker it can be treated and the longer term survival rates are better.

"The more we talk about cancer, the sooner we can act," he added.