OPINION: The NHS has started saying the smear test is a ‘choice’ and I’m not okay with it

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The National Health Service advises women to attend their first cervical screening test or smear when they turn 25. But now it seems they are telling young females that it is ‘their choice’ whether to book.

As a 20-year-old who had the HPV vaccine in school, I’ve had the importance of smear tests drilled into my brain. Yet won’t the changing of the wording to ‘helping you to decide’ make people less likely to get themselves checked?

Although it’s embarrassing having to pull your pants down and open your legs in front of a complete stranger in a GPs office for them to fumble around with a large swab, it could save your life.

These screenings tell women if they have abnormal cells in the cervix, and can prevent cervical cancer.

The NHS has decided it is important for women to realise that cervical screening is a choice. But the number of women who are attending their smear has already begun to decline.

As it is Cervical Cancer Awareness Week this week, I want to advocate FOR going for your smear test. It’s a few minutes out of your day once every three years, and the reality is, it could save your life.

I’ve always been aware that it is a choice; you aren’t dragged to your doctor and forced to have it. But the new literature ‘helping to decide’ whether it is something for you or not seems like it is giving women more of a reason to turn the chance down.

It makes it sound like the test is less important than it actually is.

What baffles me more than the NHS only allow women to book themselves in for a cervical screening from the age of 25.

A petition has been started by Keeley McCormick asking the government lower the age of cervical cancer screening to 18 for high risk groups.

The petition only needs another 500 signatures before it will be considered for debate by parliament.

It is asking for a law, to be called Amber’s Law, to be put in place.

Amber was turned away from the doctor, being told it was a water infection or her pill.

At the age of 21 she paid for a private screening test. It turned out she had cervical cancer, and it had been there two-four years already.

Over the course of four years the cancer had spread to her lungs and throat. She died at the age of 25.

The petition describes Amber’s Law as “Any woman under the age of 25 who is not eligible for cervical cancer screening who goes to the doctors with any kind of problems in their lower half on 2 occasions will have the OPTION to have screening.”

As it is a choice for women from that age, it should be a choice for women from every age, regardless of how rare it is for women under the age of 25.

Words by Stacey Turnbull

Saya and Hope are your lifestyle editors.

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