Cancer check 'delays' revealed
Young women with cervical cancer "frequently" delay seeking help from their doctors, experts have said.
When women notice symptoms, including abdominal pain, abnormal bleeding or discharge, they may not seek help from their GP because they do not recognise their symptoms could be something more sinister.
They may be embarrassed, worried about wasting a doctor's time or be anxious that they can not see a female GP, experts said.
If they were to get help better sooner then there may be better outcomes for this group of women, they added.
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London interviewed 128 patients under the age of 30 who had recently been diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Just under a third had sought help after noticing symptoms and of these 28% delayed going to see a doctor for more than three months after noticing a change to their bodies, according to the study published in the British Journal of General Practice.
Patient delay was more common among women under the age of 25 than older women, they added.
"Young females with cervical cancer frequently delay presentation, and not recognising symptoms as serious may increase the risk of delay," the researchers wrote.
"The study confirms the findings of case reports suggesting that patients under 25 years often delay presentation with cervical cancer and have more advanced stage. This supports the idea that earlier presentation could improve outcomes in this group.
"Although this study was small, it provides preliminary data that could be used to inform interventions to promote earlier presentation in this group by ensuring that they set out the possible symptoms of cervical cancer clearly, perhaps emphasising that other priorities, embarrassment, and worry about wasting the doctor's time should not deter them from presenting, and that they will be able to see a female doctor if they wish."
Calls for the cervical cancer screening programme to be extended to cover younger women were renewed recently after a teenager died from the disease.
At present, women in England, Wales and Northern Ireland aged 25 to 60 are offered cervical screening tests every three to five years.
The ages vary slightly in Scotland but will be amended from next year to be in line with other parts of Britain.
In May, MPs debated the age that cervical cancer screening should be offered to women after more than 320,000 people signed an e-petition calling for the smear test to be offered to women aged 16 and above.
The campaign was launched by the friends and family of an aspiring model who died of the disease. Sophie Jones died of cervical cancer aged 19. She had requested a smear test but was denied one because of her age.
Sophie, of Eastham, in the Wirral, Merseyside, suffered crippling stomach pains for over a year before she was initially diagnosed with Crohn's disease. But in November 2013, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and she died in March this year.