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U-turn on smear tests for young women

13th March 2009

The government has set up a panel of experts who will look at whether women aged between 20-24 should be given cervical screening tests.

cervical cancer

In 2003 in England the age at which women were offered smear tests was moved back to 25. However in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland women are offered tests at an earlier age.

The case of celebrity Jade Goody - who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2008 which has since spread to other parts of her body -  has raised calls for the screening age to be reduced.

GPs have said they have seen more young women requesting smear tests since her diagnosis was reported.

UK research has shown that the number of "high-grade pre-cancerous lesions" was going up in young women, prompting concern that the current age limit is too high.

Health minister Ann Keen said the experts would look at recent information and trends in order to decide if women under the age of 25 should be offered screening.

"Cervical screening saves around 4,500 lives every year and we want to ensure that our programme remains in the best interests of young women," Ann Keen said.

"Experts will review the latest available evidence in this area as well as consider how we can increase awareness of the importance of screening and encourage more women to decide to take up this important service."

 

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