Is the age for cervical cancer screening too high?

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It was with sadness that I read about the death of Becky Ryder, aged 26 of cervical cancer; Mrs Ryder first presented to her GP aged 24 complaining of cervical bleeding requesting a smear test, which was refused because she was under the age limit of 25 (for screening in England).

She was finally diagnosed some months later by another GP but by this stage, the cancer was terminal and she sadly passed away on Valentines Day this year.

You may remember that reality TV star Jade Goody also died of cervical cancer within 6 months of diagnosis and her death has been credited with raising awareness for the importance of regular smear tests.Government legislation was changed in 2003 to mean regular smear tests are only given to women aged 25 and over - previously all women over 20 were given the tests, which is currently still the case in Wales.

The stage at which cervical cancer is diagnosed is an important factor because if for example, the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it's usually possible to treat it surgically.

The NHS offers a national screening programme for all women over 24 years old but please see your GP if you experience any of these symptoms:-

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding (usually occurs after sexual intercourse)
  • Vaginal bleeding at any other time, other than your expected monthly period
  • Pain in and around your vagina when having sexual intercourse
  • An unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge 
  • Pain when passing urine

For more information about cervical cancer, please visit www.nhs.uk.

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