What do you do when your smear test reminder slides through your letterbox? Book yourself an appointment quick smart, or bury it in a drawer and pretend you’ve never seen it?
If it’s the latter you’re certainly not alone as according to a survey by cervical cancer charity, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Gransnet, one in three women over 50 has delayed or not attended their cervical screening test.
But what about the women on the other end of the age spectrum who aren’t yet entitled to a smear test? Just yesterday we heard the devastating news that a British woman has died at the age of 25 after being refused a cervical smear multiple times by her GP because she was too young.
Amber Rose Cliff, a housing officer and business studies graduate from Sunderland, died last weekend after a four-year long battle with cervical cancer.
Now Amber’s family are calling for more flexibility in the smear testing process and for women to be screened at a younger age. At the moment women in the UK aren’t invited to attend a smear test before the age of 25. But following her death Amber’s friends and family would like to see this age limit lowered.
Amber first started witnessing symptoms in her late teens, but was denied the opportunity to have a smear by her GP because of her age.
“We went for a private smear test when she was about 21, three years after she’d first been to the doctors,” Amber’s brother Josh Cliff told Chronicle Live. “It turned out that the cancerous tumour in her cervix had been growing for years.”
Although Amber did go on to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy to treat the cancer, it spread to her lungs and throat and doctors were unable to help her.
Now her brother is campaigning for women under 25 to be offered the option of cervical screening if they visit their GP with gynaecological issues more than once.
“I want it to be called Amber’s Law,” he continued. “Any female under 25 showing any problems with their reproductive system should have the option of a cervical screening. It shouldn’t be mandatory but that option needs to be there.”
The family has set up a petition to try and urge the government to take action and so far have received nearly 124,000 signatures.
It isn’t the first time there have been calls to lower the age of cervical smear screening. In 2014 Marie Evans urged the government to make smear tests available to those under 25 after her daughter died from cervical cancer at the age of just 22.
Jess Evans, a mum-of-one, died after being refused a smear test nine times in two months. Her mother said doctors turned her daughter away because they claimed she was too young to have the disease.
But not everyone believes that a lowering of the age for cervical smears is necessary. Cancer Research UK said that research shows offering cervical cancer screenings to women under 25 can “do more harm than good”, The Independent reported.
“This is because cervical changes that screening detects in younger women tend to clear up by themselves and are less likely to develop into cancer, so screening may lead to unnecessary tests and treatment,” explains Dr Jana Witt, the charity’s health information officer.
Instead she said it is important for women to arrange a GP appointment if they notice symptoms, no matter their age or screening history.
“If you notice symptoms such as bleeding between periods, after sex, after the menopause, or any other unusual changes, it’s really important to contact your GP and get them checked out,” she said.
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