Sophie Jones’s death is tragic but smear tests for teens are not the answer | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

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‘A 2009 research published in the BMJ located no proof that screening ladies aged 20-24 diminished the incidence of cervical cancer at age 25-29.’ Photograph: Alamy

The household of a young lady who was denied a smear test and tragically died of cervical cancer are campaigning to reduced the cervical screening age to 16 (it is currently 25 in England). At the last count the petition had far more than 130,000 signatures.

Sophie Jones was 19 and died completely unnecessarily. She had been suffering from serious stomach pains for months and, on going to the medical professional, had asked for a smear test but been refused simply because of her age. Cervical cancer was diagnosed in November and she died on Saturday. A smear check could have saved her existence. Nonetheless, lowering the cervical screening age to sixteen is a horrible idea and I urge you not to indicator the petition.

Every single now and once more, a young lady dies from cervical cancer and as a result campaigners will get in touch with on the government to lower the age at which cervical screening commences. Their anger that the cancer of their loved 1 went undiagnosed is totally understandable, specifically when, as in Sophie’s case, the patient has presented with signs and symptoms which could indicate cervical cancer. Sophie’s signs meant she ought to have been granted a smear check, but that isn’t going to indicate that all the other women her age should be. Smear exams are not, we overlook, strictly tests at all. Their function is not to diagnose cervical cancer but to try out and avert cancer from creating. This danger is gleaned from cell modifications on the cervix. If you are below the age of 25, the modifications are so great that testing gets to be relatively pointless. 1 in three ladies below the age of 25 will have an abnormal outcome (in contrast to one particular in 14 for ladies in excess of 25). It has been located once more and once more that 25 is the tipping stage at which the advantages of cervical screening outweigh the hazards. This is why the age need to not be lowered – the variety of false positives could lead to numerous younger females currently being referred for agonizing treatment method unnecessarily.

I had an abnormal smear when I was less than 1 month past my 25th birthday, and I can testify that the therapy is painful. With out wanting to go into also considerably detail, think about becoming scraped out with an electrically charged spoon. The radio was taking part in even though they did it. If I did not detest Coldplay then, I surely do now.

Certainly when I received the letter I imagined I had cancer. I did not realise that most cell alterations are standard and that possessing a pesky fluctuating cervix does not imply that you are going to die. Even though I am glad I had a smear check, I am mindful that had I taken it a month earlier, in all probability they would have sent me away. It was not a pleasant knowledge and it did, to an extent, traumatise me. It’s certainly not one thing I would wish unnecessarily on a teenage woman.

The a lot more you commence talking about your abnormal smear, the more you hear the phrases “yeah, me also”. I have lost count of the quantity of ladies who have informed me their stories. Most didn’t have cancer and didn’t even need to have treatment. Lowering the age would indicate a lot of a lot more “me toos”.

There is a school of thought which argues that females shouldn’t have smear exams at all. I do not subscribe to that but studies have shown that the bulk do not have any benefit. The likelihood of getting an abnormal end result is significantly greater than the probability that you’ll get cancer, but for the small proportion of women who do go on to produce cancer, a smear is vital.

Thus far, health-related proof does not recommend a need to lower the age for cervical screening. A 2009 examine published in the BMJ identified no proof that screening girls aged twenty-24 lowered the incidence of cervical cancer at age 25-29. In other words, cervical screening at this age has small or no affect on charges of invasive cancer up to the age of 30.

It’s straightforward to get swept up in the emotion of a campaign this kind of as that of Sophie’s family members – her death was preventable and her physician failed her. But, as with numerous factors, education and bettering entry holds the important. Females need to have to be taught not to panic so a lot when they get an abnormal end result and to recognise signs and symptoms – it is a scandal that we are this unwell-informed about our very own bodies. Physicians need to be reminded how to react when young individuals present indications of the illness, and we need to be producing sure that teenagers are receiving all three HPV jabs, particularly people from non-white ethnic groups. Creating sure these measures are taken would be a fitting tribute to Sophie.

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