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Mum who lost daughter to cervical cancer calls to lower screening age

By Lisa Smyth

The mother of a 23-year-old woman who died from cervical cancer has urged the Prime Minister to lower the age for women to be screened for the deadly disease.

Christina Glenn, from Londonderry, was speaking last night after her daughter's death was raised at Westminster yesterday by SDLP MP Mark Durkan.

The Foyle MP called for a review of the screening age for cervical cancer, which is currently set at 25, at Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday.

Mr Durkan told MPs: "Last weekend was the first anniversary of the death from cervical cancer of Derry girl Sorcha Glenn aged 23.

"In June 2013, she had been concerned enough to ask for an early smear test but was refused because she was under 25.

"As Team Sorcha - and highlighting other life cases - her family have now written an open letter to the PM.

"Can I ask him not to offer here a reflex repeat of the rationale for current screening-age policy but to reflect on the questions raised about how this translates into refusing smear tests to young women like Sorcha and to consider the age-related data on cervical cancer since the screening age was increased in 2004?" The Prime Minister said Sorcha's experience was a "tragic case" but said the current position is set by the UK National Screening Committee and is not based on resources.

"It's because of the potential of perverse medical consequences of carrying out screening routinely below that age, that would be potentially a number of false positives because of anatomical changes that go on at that age," he said.

"Those people who fear they have a family history and ask for a test, I will certainly write to him on that issue."

Responding to Mr Cameron's comments, Mrs Glenn said she believed the current position on testing was based on 13-year-old evidence.

"What kind of car were you driving 13 years ago?" she said.

"If mechanics and technology can move on why should we rely on evidence from 13 years ago, when a change in policy could potentially save the lives of young women?

"We don't know if Sorcha would have survived if she had been given a smear test, the professionals don't know, but it may have saved her life and we will live with that question for the rest of our lives."

Sorcha first requested a smear test in June 2013 as she was concerned about her family history of cervical cancer.

She was refused because she was under the age of 25.

However, she was subsequently tested after experiencing symptoms and was diagnosed with the disease in September 2013.

Despite enduring chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she died in October last year in the arms of her boyfriend.

Before she died, she set up a petition calling for any woman to be entitled to a smear test if they ask for one - regardless of age.

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