Cervical screening review motion to be put to Council

Sinn Fein Councillor Caoimhe McKnight.
Sinn Fein Councillor Caoimhe McKnight.

Derry City & Strabane District Council will be asked this week to write to the Departments of Health, north and south, urging them to reconsider their cervical screening policies.

Sinn Féin Councillor Caoimhe McKnight is to bring forward the motion at this Thursday’s full council meeting.

There has been a major campaign led by Team Sorcha and backed by the Pink Ladies which has been instrumental in calling for the cervical screening policy to be changed and in raising awareness in the north west and further afield.

The campaign originated with local woman Sorcha Glenn, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 23 from cervical cancer. Sorcha wasn’t eligible for a routine smear prior to her diagnosis as she was under 25, and Team Sorcha have been campaigning for smear on demand.

Colr. McKnight plans to propose that the council recognise that cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers in women, “and as such will write to the Permanent Secretary for Health and to the Minister for Health in the 26 counties urging them to reconsider their screening policy.”

The motion also states: “We believe in addition to population screening, a smear test should be available to any female, regardless of age, if they request it,” Colr. McKnight said.

Speaking prior to the meeting Colr. McKnight said: “I felt it was very important to bring this motion forward.

“Cervical screening is about preventing cancer not simply detection and health officials should reconsider the policy of only offering screening to over 25s.

“I can speak from experience when I say that a smear test could literally save your life. When living in Scotland at the age of 21 (which is the age there at which you are eligible for a smear), I received the notification of my eligibility and was advised to avail of it.

“But like many young women I put it off for a couple of months before finally going for the test.

“When I tell you how grateful I am that I made the decision to have the test, it is no exaggeration.

“It was lucky (yes lucky) that I made the decision to have the test as they found abnormal cells. I dread to think what I may have been told if I had to wait until the age of 25 before being tested.

“After treatment and a few yearly smears everything is now fine and I am now in the normal three years test cycle.

“So from personal experience I can’t encourage women strongly enough to go get checked out. I can assure you the peace of mind is worth any embarrassment in having this potentially life-saving procedure.

“One in four women aged 25-64 don’t get tested and this falls to one in three for 25-29 year olds.

“Smear tests prevent up to 75 per cent of cervical cancers – the most common form of cancer in women under 35 - so it is concerning that so many women don’t get tested.

“It is, therefore, extremely important that all eligible women are pro-active in getting appointments for their smear when invited to do so. It can save your life.”