No change in cervical cancer screening age

Defeat for campaign to lower age from 25 to 20

Women under 25 in England will remain barred from cervical cancer checks – despite the rest of Britain offering screening for anyone over 20.

The Government said it would not lower the screening age to 20 after a review found it would do ‘more harm than good’. Instead, GPs will be told to improve their diagnosis of young women by spotting symptoms at an earlier stage.

Five years ago, England scrapped checks for women under 25 because the disease seldom affects women so young. But the death of Jade Goody from the disease at 27, and a nationwide campaign by the family of Claire Walker Everett, who died aged just 23, led to calls to lower the screening age.

Jack Tweed, Miss Goody’s widower, said it was a ‘great shame’ the Government had rejected calls to lower the screening age. ‘Anything that saves a single life is worthwhile, I know because I still miss Jade every day,’ he said.

Liz Davies, of the charity Marie Stopes International, said it was ‘extremely disappointing’ young women in England would remain barred from regular screening.

The review by the independent Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening concluded there were too many false positive results from screening of younger women, leading to needless treatment that can raise the risk of premature births.

Cervical cancer
is rare among younger women, with around 50 cases a year in women under 25 and only a handful of deaths. Ministers want all girls aged between 12 and 18 to be given a jab which protects against HPV, the sexual infection which causes most cases, over the next three years. They say it could eventually save 700 lives a year.

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