Norfolk woman 'too young' for cancer screening

Dan GrimmerA 24-year-old Norfolk woman who has suffered agonising pains for almost a year has been denied cervical screening because she is just a few months under the age limit for a test.Dan Grimmer

A 24-year-old Norfolk woman who has suffered agonising pains for almost a year has been denied cervical screening because she is just a few months under the age limit for a test.

The situation has highlighted the rules governing NHS screening processes, which mean women cannot be given a the test unless they are over the age of 25.

The woman has been going to her GP for the past eight months with lower stomach cramps, but she cannot take a cervical sample test (previously called smear tests) - which detect abnormal cells that can lead to cancer and infertility - because she has not reached the official screening age.

The woman, who is so distressed by her predicament she did not want to be named, said she now does not know 'which way to turn'.

She said: 'I started getting stomach pains about eight months ago and thought at first it might be the side effects of my birth control pill.

'Then I started to bleed in between my periods so I went to a family planning clinic where I had a test for chlamydia and other tests, but they all came back negative.

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'I was told a test might help but I am not yet 25, even though I am only a few months off, so I have to wait. I am really worried I could have cervical cancer, but there is no way of me finding out because of my age.'

The woman, who takes painkillers every day for her pain, said she was told by a doctor at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital that she should have a test, but her GP is still not recommending she have one.

NHS Norfolk is the commissioning trust responsible for cervical screening and the simple tests are usually carried out at GP surgeries and health centres.

The woman contacted the Evening News after seeing how NHS Norfolk hailed a 'cervical screening success' in which thousands of women are getting their results from cervical screening faster than ever thanks to a successful pilot scheme.

She said: 'It is great that women who fall into the right category for screening are getting results faster, but there must be hundreds more like me who just fall out of that age bracket. A test would help me get treatment as soon as possible or at least eliminate anything serious. My partner and I are very angry at this absurd and inflexible NHS policy which.'

North Norfolk MP and Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'The rules to do seem particularly bureaucratic and strict. The patient should be getting every test possible to establish the cause of the problem.'

There was a surge for cervical smear tests in the county last year following the death of reality TV star Jade Goody. It is believed the Big Brother star's high profile fight with cervical cancer has led to an increase of at least 5pc in the number of people getting the vital tests in Norfolk.

Fiona Kelly, NHS Norfolk's Screening Programme Lead, said: 'When we invite women to attend clinics for cervical screening, we are approaching women who have no signs or symptoms of cervical illness or disease.

'It is of course important that any woman presenting to her clinician with related symptoms should receive pertinent information and appropriate treatment. If necessary, it is likely that the patient will be referred to a colposcopist or gynaecologist for further examination and diagnosis.

'It is not appropriate to take a sample from a woman under the age of 25 years unless a gynaecologist instructs this.'

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