The current age for smear tests in the UK is 25. The government argues that research into cervical cancer claims that it is rare to get the disease in women under 25. Out of 100 women diagnosed with cervical cancer, only 2 of those will be under 25. However, there are still cases where young women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, there are still abnormalities to look for.
They state that young women’s bodies go through a lot of changes and that abnormalities may often be found but they are usually harmless and will work themselves out. They state that any misdiagnosis can be harmful to young women’s bodies. But surely our doctors are more capable than this? If an abnormality is discovered, surely the first answer isn’t chemotherapy? Shouldn’t there be more tests available first? The age doesn’t necessarily have to be lowered to too young if they’re worried about growing bodies being a factor, but it was once at 20, so why raise to another 5 years?
I am not arguing with the research given. It is fair and well conducted. But there are many of us who believe that the age limit is too high. Here are just a few reasons why I, and many others, believe that the age of smear tests should be lowered.
1. What if you’re that 2 diagnosed?
There are still young women, under 25, who are diagnosed with cervical cancer. If you’re that 2 out of 100, are you to be neglected and ignored because you weren’t able to have a smear test? Are you to be left with symptoms growing more and more extreme until it’s too late? Even 2 is too many. The earlier it is caught, the more chance at survival. No woman should be neglected, no woman should be left to die because it was caught too late.
2. It would help raise awareness as well as detect cell changes. It opens a conversation.
Such a big movement would raise awareness in what we should consider ‘abnormal’. We know our own bodies but are sometimes too scared to ask. Lowering the age would give young girls the green light to be able to go to their doctor and discuss any changes. They don’t necessarily have to go as far as having a smear test if the doctor isn’t concerned, but it would make younger women feel more comfortable with going to ask. At the moment, the age of smear tests make it seem like we shouldn’t be worried or even care. It can make some women think that they are over-reacting, even though they are the ones who know their own bodies best. The fact that many are turned down for requesting smear tests for being too young is off-putting for those concerned. At least open up the conversation for us.
3. Some women are turned away for being too young.
There are many cases in the media where women have been turned down for being too young when they requested a smear test. Yet some were right, they were eventually diagnosed with cervical cancer and told that it was too late for them. I understand that a smear test may not necessarily be the first test doctors would like to use, but if a patient is still concerned, shouldn’t they listen to them? I even read how someone’s GP requested a smear test for their patient and were turned down because they were too young. A GP has cause for concern and is told no. Hopefully this was a rare case.
4. Cancer doesn’t care about age.
It may be rarer to be diagnosed under 25, but it does still happen. Women are diagnosed with cervical cancer at all ages. Cancer does not care about age, it is a disease and smear tests are meant to prevent it. They are meant to detect it early enough to give hope.
5. Women with family history shouldn’t have to ask to be seen. It should be offered.
I’ve mentioned that some women request smear tests but are turned down because they’re under 25. This is understandable to a certain extent; smear tests shouldn’t necessarily be their first option if they have concerns. They should discuss things with their doctor first and run smaller tests before anything else. But what about those who understand more than most? What about those with a family history of abnormal cells? What about those who keep having concerns that don’t disappear? Shouldn’t they be offered it at least? They have a greater chance of having abnormal cells and may understand the symptoms more than most if they’ve seen family members go through it. And if anyone has concerns that do not go away, their age shouldn’t be a factor in the decision to test.
6. Smear tests can catch abnormalities early and allows women a chance to become future mothers still.
Abnormalities don’t just cause cancer. Some women have it caught early enough to treat the cancer, but not early enough to save their chances at having children. Fertility can be greatly affected by the abnormal cells. Don’t take away a woman’s natural right to have children. Don’t take away a woman’s chance at being a mother.
7. It saves lives!
There’s nothing else to say for this point. Smear tests saves lives. Why is it even up for debate?
8. We’re asking for it, surely this shows how scared we are.
The age was once at 20 for smear tests to be done. So, it can work out. There are so many petitions to lower the age, but they are all ignored. There are many campaigns and yet still, our voices are waved away. We are scared. We see the chance at hope and yet nothing is done. If the age won’t be lowered then do something to tell us you’re listening. Teach these things in school, add learning about cancer and its symptoms to the curriculum. Surely something can be done if not this.