Dr Chris and cervical cancer patient Hannah Booth on their campaign to have the screening age lowered.
Women used to be routinely screened for cervical cancer from the age of 20 but in 2003 the government raised the age to 25 in England.
Latest figures though show a rise in the number of women in their 20s getting cervical cancer and joining us today is single mum Hannah Booth who was 20 when she was diagnosed.
She's now campaigning for the screening age to be brought back down and with her is Dr Chris to talk more about his campaign, and the arguments for and against lowering the age.
Dr Chris on his Cervical Smear Campaign
I have campaigned for some years to get cervical smears available to women under 25. In Scotland, Wales and most other countries smears are done from 20, with some countries eg USA from 18 or within 3 yrs of starting sexual activity, which ever is earlier. England changed the smear age from 20 to 25 in 2004.
The reason, given by the Dept Of Health, for not doing smears under 25 is that they do more harm than good!! If this were the case, where is the harm occurring in all the other countries?
Women in our armed forces are offered smears from age of 20.
Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) - this is a sexually transmitted infection. Starting sex early, having unprotected sex with multiple partners, and smoking, are risk factors for cervical cancer.
Sexual activity is starting earlier in girls eg increasing teenage pregnancies, easier access to the pill and the morning after pill from age 16, and increasing level of sexually transmitted diseases. Hence greater exposure to HPV, the cause of cancer of the cervix.
I have presented petitions to No 10, met privately with Health Ministers, MPs etc to no avail.
There are over 1 million women under 25. A smear test costs £50. hence cost of doing smears on the under 25s is £50 million - this might be the reason.
Because the under 25s can't get smears, these young women are dying of undiagnosed cervical cancer.
Professor Henry Kitchener, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology at the University of Manchester and Chair of the Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening, said:
Cervical screening is not a test for cancer, but for abnormalities that could develop into cancer. These are common in women under 25, - 1 in 3 younger women would test positive compared to 1 in 14 women aged over 25 — but cervical cancer in younger women is very rare. In the vast majority of younger women, the abnormalities resolve on their own and so a positive result is not a good indication of future cancer. If abnormalities are found, the next step is further investigation and treatment involving removal of these cells from the cervix. This increases the likelihood of the woman having a pre-term delivery and could, therefore, endanger both the woman and her baby. In 2009, the Cervical Screening Committee* of experts reviewed the evidence and unanimously agreed that screening women under 25 would do more harm than good. Since the starting age was raised in 2003, there has been no increase in mortality in women aged 20 to 30 years old. But, we do understand that those rare cases where a woman under 25 gets cervical cancer are incredibly distressing and the death of any woman from cervical cancer is a tragedy for her, and her family and friends.
It is important to understand that cervical screening is aimed at women without symptoms. If a woman of any age has symptoms, she should be referred to see a gynaecologist within two weeks for further investigation. Screening for women with symptoms is inappropriate and could actually delay a full and proper diagnosis.”
*which advises the Government