Some months ago I wrote about the fact I was supporting a campaign to try and get the current cervical cancer screening law changed.
I featured the story of Chester girl Lucy Jones (née Rushton) who was supporting the Team Sorcha cause, in the name of Sorcha Glenn, a 23-year-old woman from Derry who died after consistently being refused a smear test, despite a family history of cervical cancer.
Lucy had her own reasons for supporting Team Sorcha – and felt fiercely compelled to try and get the law changed so any woman has the right have to demand a smear test even if they are not due for one (the current age limit is 25).
To briefly recap, the 27-year-old from Waverton was originally treated for high grade pre-cancerous cells back in 2008 when she was 19.
After her treatment she had smears which were clear for the next two years and was told her next one would be due in 2016.
But in May 2013, she went to the doctors after experiencing severe lower abdominal pain, irregular bleeding and backache – the same symptoms she had experienced before.
She was told by her GP that although a smear test would benefit her to rule out cervical abnormalities, she was unable to have one because she was not due for one until 2016, leaving her without any investigation or examination.
When the pain got so bad that Lucy literally pleaded with the doctor to do a smear test, she finally got one and he made a note on the system to say he agreed it was the best course of action.
But a week later she got a letter from the laboratory, refused to test her because she was not due for a smear test.
Desperate to put her mind at rest, Lucy’s parents paid for her to get a test done privately through Bupa. Her worst fears were confirmed weeks later when she was diagnosed with early stage cervical cancer state 1a1 – which in some cases can require full hysterectomy.
Had Lucy waited until the NHS wanted her to have a smear test, who knows what her situation would be today?
This is why she is so dedicated to helping change the law, and urged Chronicle readers to sign the petition set up by Sorcha’s family to get the issue discussed in the House of Commons.
The petition exceeded the required 100,000 signatures and last week, Sorcha’s MP Mark Durkan spoke frankly to Prime Minister David Cameron about why the law needs to change.
Mr Cameron described Sorcha’s case as ‘absolutely tragic’ and agreed it was an issue worth looking at.
However, he said the reason the current regulations were in place was ‘not a resources decision’ but because of health consequences of carrying out screening on women younger than 25. He will now write a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, asking him to look at the issue further.
Although pleased the issue will be looked at, Lucy still feels angry about the amount of under 25 year old women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer.
“The current regulations are outdated – it considers data from 1B stage cancers, 1A stages (such as mine) weren’t even counted in the research,” she said. “When you look into the amount of under 25-year-olds being diagnosed with stage 1A cervical caner, the numbers are huge. Why were they never counted?
“Why is it harmful to screen women who are 24 and not harmful for women who are 25?
“I personally feel that this is an excuse that the Government hide behind and use in order to not have address the fact that screening in most cases is more beneficial than it is harmful.
“I do not understand how screening someone younger would be any more ‘harmful’ than screening someone over 25 years old – it just doesn’t make sense. You either need treatment or you don’t – it doesn’t matter how old or young you are.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate against age, so neither should the screen process – I just cannot see this logic at all.
Lucy added: “Cervical cancer is statistically most common in women aged 25-29 years old.
“Therefore, in order to prevent cancer in women aged 25 and over, screening needs to begin before this age. Why would it make sense to only start preventing something when you’ve already reached the age when its most common? It seems like a complete contradiction of what they are trying to achieve.
“I really do feel as though it’s time for the Government to review the current legislation and use more up to date figures and evidence.
“They needs to realise that this is happening more and more – there are so many women under 25 years old being diagnosed with one of the most preventable cancers.
“Cervical cancer is on the increase; with such a good cervical screening process in place, it frustrates me so much that is so inaccessible for those who really do need it most.
“Wake up David Cameron, the legislation is outdated and needs amending – cancer doesn’t follow NHS guidelines, it is sneaky and unfair.
“That’s why we need a more logical approach to cervical screening, that can outsmart cervical cancer as soon as it rears its ugly head.”