Lowering smear test age rejected

Sorcha Glenn.
Sorcha Glenn.

The Department for Health has rejected calls from Derry City Council for the age limit for cervical screening to be lowered from 25 to 20.

Derry City Council unanimously backed SDLP Councillor Angela Dobbins’ motion on the matter back in October 2014.

The call followed the tragic death of Derry woman Sorcha Glenn, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer at just 22 and spent the final few months of her life encouraging women to go for screening and campaigning for a lower age limit.

Since her death, thousands of people have joined the ongoing campaign under the banner ‘Team Sorcha’.

Women were offered their first screening at the age of 20 up until 2011, when the limit was raised by five years.

In a letter brought before the council’s Policy and Resources Committee in the Guildhall yesterday, Seamus Camplisson of the Department for Health’s Health Protection Branch defended this current policy of the 25-year age limit.

He said this was in line with most of the EU and followed recommendations “following consideration of the best available scientific evidence”.

He added that cervical cancer was rare in young women and that evidence “indicates that screening is not effective in women under the age of 25 because those who develop cervical cancer were as likely to be screened as unscreened”.

The Council marked Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in January by turning the lights at Civic Offices on Strand Road, teal, the campaign colour.