Belfast Telegraph

Sorcha's legacy: A campaign that has already saved the lives of other women who didn't realise they had cervical cancer

By Donna Deeney

She died from cervical cancer at the age of just 23, but Sorcha Glenn's legacy has saved the lives of other women.

Team Sorcha - a campaign to have cervical cancer tests available on request - was launched in memory of the inspirational Londonderry woman, who passed away just 13 months after being diagnosed in late 2013.

Sorcha had a family history of cervical cancer - both her grandmothers died of the disease, while an aunt survived after treatment - prompting her to ask her GP for a test. But because she was younger than 25 she was refused.

It was only when she started to suffer symptoms that a test showed Sorcha had already developed cancer. She died in October last year, just over a year later.

A key element of the Team Sorcha campaign is a petition calling for testing to be offered to any woman who requests it, even if they are younger than 25.

Already the petition has been signed by 54,000 people - more than halfway to the target set by Sorcha's family and friends. Among them is her sister Orlagh Robson, who said the family had been contacted by a number of women who went for a test after reading Sorcha's story and were subsequently diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Orlagh said: "While she was still alive, Sorcha launched a campaign to make girls aware of cervical cancer and the symptoms.

"One week after she died we launched the petition, which now has 54,000 signatures, and considering these have been collected in just a few weeks, it is amazing.

"Once we reach 100,000 names it will go to the back benches of the House of Commons, but raising awareness of the symptoms and encouraging women to get tested is very much part of the campaign as well. We have been contacted by a number of women who told us they read Sorcha's story on the website and then got the test which showed they needed treatment.

"So it is comforting to know that lives have already been saved."

Derry City Council offices have been turned the colour teal this month in support of the campaign and to raise awareness of cervical cancer.

Mayor Brenda Stevenson, who backs the campaign, said she was delighted the council was endorsing Team Sorcha's drive and doing what it could to raise awareness of the issue.

She added: "This is a very worthwhile campaign to not only raise awareness of cervical screening in young people, but to enable those who require a smear test to be given one without age discrimination and to reduce the age of screening from 25 to 18 years old.

"The lights of the council offices have been turned teal during the month of January in an effort to raise awareness and to encourage more people to get behind the campaign.

"Sorcha was a very brave young woman who fought a very brave battle against the disease. Her story is truly inspirational and I am extremely proud of her family, friends and supporters for the positive way they have dealt with Sorcha's sad passing by campaigning to ensure no other families endure what they have had to experience."

Background

Team Sorcha was launched after Sorcha Glenn died of cervical cancer aged 23. For more information visit http://www.teamsorcha.com/ or follow on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/teamsorcha. To sign the Team Sorcha petition go to http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/71455

Cervical cancer symptoms can include unexpected bleeding, pain and discomfort during sex and an unpleasant smelling discharge.

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