Veganuary, Dry January, the opportunities to start the new year healthier and better are endless. Between all those New Year resolutions, the Cervical Health Awareness Month gets lost in the shuffle, when January should actually be the month to highlight issues related to cervical cancer, HPV disease and the importance of early detection.
311,000 women died from cervical cancer in 2018, with nine people diagnosed every single day. One could say that cervical screenings (“smear tests”) are therefore crucial for all women, which raises the question why invitations are just sent out to women between the ages 25 and 64.
Considering that just one percent of cervical cancer cases are diagnosed under the age of 25, this may seem justified. But if you start thinking about the fact that one percent means 677,343 people, you may start questioning the system. Being one out of the 677,343 suddenly feels far more probable than being 1 out of the one percent, right? Many women therefore challenge the age restriction and don´t understand why this free health test is restricted to women who are older than 25.
One of the reasons why younger women are not offered the smear test is, because abnormal cervical cells are fairly common, especially for younger individuals. Finding them in young women (under 25) can present doctors with a dilemma, because abnormal cells often get better without any treatment. Therefore, doing smear tests in women in their teens and early 20s could lead to over treatment. This combined with the fact that in the UK, cervical cancer is rare below the age of 25 means that experts have voted unanimously to keep the age at which screening starts at 25.
But what happens to the poor 677,343 women, who get failed by the system?
There are always exceptions and in the case of cervical cancer screenings, making an exception means juggling with 677,343 lives.
Speaking from experience, there are women under the age of 25 who wouldn’t be alive if they didn’t take matters into their own hands. If they hadn’t gone to a doctor and paid privately for a screening. They are failed by the system and subsequently begging for young concerned women to be at least considered for a cervical screening.
Until then, there are still symptoms in which you can look out for. If you experience abnormal bleeding, such as bleeding between menstrual periods or after sex and experience pelvic pain or painful urination, please don’t hesitate to visit a GP. While these may not indicate cervical cancer, it is not work the risk of being one of the one percent who get failed by the system.
Image credit: Vicky Arora via Flickr