If there’s a health care test that can spot the signs of cancer and subsequently save lives, it should surely be offered to all.
The NHS’s free cervical screening test identifies early abnormalities of the cervix that could progress into cervical cancer.
This seems like a plausible comment for any sensitive, level-headed human to make but the smear test is only available in England for women over 25.
But few people are aware that the age women qualify for the test was actually increased in 2003 from 20-years-old to 25.
The NHS were advised by the Advisory Committee on Cervical Cancer Screening (ACCS) that cervical cancer screening in younger women did more harm than good.
The Committee argued that cell abnormalities, when located in younger women often disappear on their own.
There are also significant side effects to note when having the smear test at a younger age.
Younger women become more at risk of having preterm delivery if they go on to have children and it can cause anxiety issues too.
That being said, if this test can prevent the progression of cervical cancer and potentially death, I would personally be willing to risk an early delivery or anxiety problems.
The Daily Mail is currently conducting an online poll asking readers if the routine cervical cancer smear test should start younger.
The results are in unsurprising favour to lower the age. The poll comes after an aspiring model recently died from cervical cancer.
19-year-old Sophie Jones (left) was initially told she had Crohn's Disease when she went to the doctor complaining of stomach pains in February last year.
But it wasn’t until November that she was diagnosed with cervical cancer when her condition worsened and she was hospitalized.
Though already a devastating story, the real tragedy came when it was revealed Sophie was turned down for a smear test because doctors said she was too young to be tested.
It is a huge assumption to say Sophie would still be here had she been offered a smear test but it sparks debate of whether more potential lives could be saved in the future if the age is lowered.
In Australia women aged 18 are invited to be screened and in the USA this can be at any age so long as it’s two years after being sexually active.
But in the Netherlands, Finland and Bulgaria no women under 30 are invited.
Over 300,000 people have signed an online petition called ‘Sophie’s Choice’ which aims to the lower the age of smear tests in England to 16.
However, with the potential risks previously outlined, and the fact the age has already been increased it’s quite unlikely the petition will change anything.
I think the age women are offered a cervical smear test should be lowered because for me, the potential to save lives outweighs the side effects.
Women would then be able to decide if the side effects are too extensive and could opt out of the test till they are older.
Have your say and vote in the ‘Sophie’s Choice’ petition.