We ask that in addition to population screening, if a woman presents at her doctor's and requests a smear test and the GP/nurse agrees, she is given one.
This does not currently happen. This is a gender issue; women are turned away if they are not due for their population screening, despite health care professionals wanting to carry out the test. This doesn't happen to men in relation to prostate examinations.
Since the age for a smear test was put up to 25 in 2004, the number of women under 30 dying from cervical cancer has almost doubled. Cervical cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, with a recovery rate of 99.7% if caught early enough. So why are the Government letting this happen?
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- The rate of cervical cancer has more than doubled in women aged 25-29 years since 2004.
- In women aged 25 years, there has been a three-fold increase in the rate of cervical cancer since 2007.
- In 2011, registrations of cervical cancer in England were highest in women aged 25-29 years.
- A smear test costs the NHS £7.10 but being denied one cost these women their lives.
Cervical cancer is preventable in 99.7% of cases.... So no one should be dying.
This is an issue that affects thousands of UNISON members across our region. Lucy is a UNISON member and her branch Cheshire Police UNISON has supported her campaigning work.
"I developed backache and irregular bleeding at the age of 19 when I was at university. I was told by the GP I wasn’t entitled to a smear until I was 25 and I was sent away. I continued to be in pain, so I went to see the university nurse and she got me an appointment at the hospital colposcopy clinic only because a friend of hers worked there and fitted me in at the end of the day. I was told after a biopsy that I had a large area of high grade (CIN 3) pre-cancerous cells that needed removing. I had them removed under general anaesthetic less than two weeks later.
Fast forward 7 years and aged 26, I started with the same symptoms again so I went to see the GP. Despite my medical history, I was told that I had another 18 months to wait until my next smear test and I was sent away. I went to see the GP again twice, and on my 3rd visit she agreed that I would benefit from having a smear test. The test was carried out and then I was astonished to receive a letter through the post less than a week later from the lab explaining that they had destroyed my test sample due to me not being due for a routine smear and to go back to the GP in 18 months’ time.
Knowing something was wrong, I then paid privately and was soon diagnosed with 1A cervical cancer. This stage can still require a full hysterectomy and chemo/radiotherapy so I was so frightened. I was referred back to the NHS and I had my operation a couple of weeks later. Luckily, I didn’t require any further treatment but the outcome could have been much different if I hadn’t gone private and waited the 18 months until my next smear. Since treatment in 2014, I have had a baby boy who is now 7 months old.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky to recover, Sorcha Glenn from Northern Ireland was turned away from her GP and refused a smear despite being in significant pain. Sorcha was later diagnosed with cervical cancer and died aged 23.
Faye Knowles Chapman died of cervical cancer aged 26 after her cervical cancer was diagnosed at 25 and not caught in the early stages. Faye’s mother has set up The Faye Knowles Chapman Foundation, which fundraises to pay for women under 25 to have a smear test carried out privately.
Amber’s Law is a charity set up by Amber Rose Cliff’s father after his daughter Amber died from cervical cancer aged 25. Amber had been showing symptoms of the disease since age 18, but by the time she was diagnosed at 21, her cancer had progressed too far to be treated.
These are just a small example of the women who are dying from cervical cancer. Six women a day in the UK die from the disease, I feel that statistic is too high based on the fact 99.7% of cervical cancer is curable if detected early enough. With such a good screening programme in place, the mortality rate from cervical cancer in the UK should be pretty much non-existent."
Please support UNISON North West's #SmearOnDemand campaign
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