‘Smear age must be lowered’ - Foyle MLA

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Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin has warned that cervical cancer screening should not be restricted to women over 25 years-old.

Ms McLaughlin was speaking after hosting an event in Stormont’s Long Gallery in memory of Derry woman Sorcha Glenn, who died from cervical cancer last year aged just 23. Sorcha was diagnosed in September 2013, but was refused a smear test, despite her own concerns ,because she was under 25.

Sorcha Glenn.

Sorcha Glenn.

Since her death, Sorcha’s family have since been campaigning to see her dying wish- that her story would allow women to access smear tests even if they are under the age of 25- to become a reality.

Recalling crossing paths with Sorcha last year, Ms McLaughlin said: “In 2014, I and a number of party colleagues had a meeting with the new chief executive and staff in the Foyle Hospice in Derry.

“As we were leaving, a young woman was being wheeled into the hospice who was obviously very ill. While I didn’t know who she was I was struck by how young she was.

“That young women was Sorcha Glenn diagnosed with cervical cancer at 22 years old and who tragically lost her life in October 2014 aged just 23 years old. This has left a lasting impression on me which over the last year has been strengthened by the courage, dignity and strength of her family, personified through her mum Christina.

“Sorcha’s story becomes even more tragic when we realise that she had asked for a smear test but was turned down as she was under 25. Cervical screening is about preventing cancer not simply detection, and health officials should reconsider the policy.

“Since 2007 there has been a threefold increase in the number of 25 year-olds with cervical cancer. We must work to ensure that Sorcha’s legacy is helping to prevent further tragic deaths from this illness.”