UK should lower age of cervical cancer screening

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I was surprised to hear that the UK does not screen for cervical cancer until age 25. Previously, I had mentioned that Pap smears are recommended at 18 or when the woman first becomes sexually active. This is the case in the US. Apparently, the NHS does not feel there is enough evidence to support screening for the disease earlier than 25.

The NHS now fear that Jade Goody’s case will scare women into thinking that they need it earlier. That seems to be the case as many health charities are pleading with the NHS to change their stance on this. The NHS has pointed out that many young women have abnormal tests which turn out to be nothing, but which can cause unnecessary emotional distress. On such grounds, they oppose having the tests earlier. Are they saying women can’t cope with the distress? Shouldn’t it be up to the woman to decide whether she wants that distress or not? If she wants to take that risk, the NHS should allow it to her and pay for the test.

Sexual promiscuity is a leading factor in cervical cancer. Not necessarily that the woman has multiple partners (although that can be the case), but that she is sexually active at a young age. HPV, the human papillomavirus, is a sexually-transmitted virus that comes in many forms. Many of these forms can cause changes in the cervix as a result of the infection, which can lead to cervical cancer. The more sexually active, the more likely you will get the infection.

We know that not all women remain virgins until they marry at the ripe old age of 30. So, why not have the test available to those women who are sexually active but younger than 25? It might save their life in the long-run.

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