Mum Of Cervical Cancer Victim Petitions Downing Street To End Postcode Lottery

Lawyer Backs Campaign And Calls On Doctors To ‘Treat The Symptoms Not The Age’


The devastated mum of a young cervical cancer victim has launched a campaign to ensure other young women are tested for the disease which cut short her daughter’s life, and will hand a petition to the Government today (23th April) with more than 112,000 signatures.

Mercedes Curnow was just 23 when she died days before Christmas on 14th December 2011, at her home in Crowlas, near Penzance in Cornwall. She died in the arms of her mum, Sandra Cousins, who had spent 18 months nursing her and watching helplessly as the disease – known as the ‘silent killer’ – took hold of her daughter’s body.

Now, family and friends of the popular former travel agent and photography student, backed by medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell solicitors, have joined Sandra’s campaign, in petitioning the Government to urgently re-introduce cervical smear testing in England for under 25 year olds – in line with Wales and Scotland who test from the age of 20.

Julie Lewis, a partner and medical law expert with the Bristol office of Irwin Mitchell, who is representing the family, explained: “Although cervical cancer in young women is rare, the sad fact remains that Mercedes’ case is not isolated. Irwin Mitchell’s medical law team has dealt with a number of cases involving women in their twenties from across the country whose cervical cancer was initially missed by doctors.

“What links most of these cases is that ‘red flag’ symptoms, which should immediately have rung alarms bells, were present but ignored by doctors. One 26 year old client even questioned her GP and asked if she might possibly be suffering from cancer but was told she was ‘far too young and not to be so stupid.’ She was subsequently found to have advanced cervical cancer.

“Delays in promptly diagnosing and treating cervical cancer can have devastating consequences and it is vital that doctors focus on the symptoms rather than the age of a woman when deciding whether or not it might be cancer.”

Since Mercedes’ death four months ago, her family and friends have vowed to campaign for changes in current policy for cervical smear testing of women in their 20s. A petition of more than 112,000 signatures will be handed in to Downing Street today (Monday 23th April) calling on the NHS to reintroduce cervical cancer smear testing for women from the age of 20 in England.

Mum, Sandra Cousins explained: “Our family remain devastated by Mercedes tragic and untimely death. Despite the fact that she was in so much pain during those final months, she was committed to raising awareness and changing people’s attitudes towards cervical cancer.

“Despite high profile cases like Jade Goody who died from this same aggressive and terrible disease aged just 27; it seems that cervical cancer amongst young women has disappeared off the radar again.

“Had Mercedes survived, she had planned to tour schools and colleges to raise awareness about the importance of being tested and looking out for symptoms.

“Our petition today calls for an end to the unfair postcode lottery which currently means young women in England have to wait a full five years before being offered the same cervical cancer testing available to women in the rest of the UK.

“If Mercedes had been offered a smear test when she first started to suffer symptoms I believe she would still be alive today.”

Mercedes health problems began in April 2009 when she began to suffer from heavy bleeding, blood clots and severe abdominal pain at the age of just 20. Her family claim she pleaded with doctors to carry out a smear test – pleas that they allege fell on deaf ears.

For 12 months Mercedes was told she was simply suffering from heavy periods and was put on the contraceptive pill in an attempt to alleviate the bleeding. By the time she was finally diagnosed with cervical cancer in April 2010 she required major surgery. The tumour had become so large that it was pressing on her lymph nodes which in turn were affecting her kidneys.

Multiple courses of chemotherapy followed but just 10 days before Christmas, on 14th December 2011 Mercedes finally lost her long battle against the cancer which in the final months had left her unable to walk unaided and caused her weight to plummet under six stone.

Julie Lewis added: “We are in the early stages of investigating apparent delays in diagnosing and treating Mercedes’ condition as the family is desperate for answers. Sandra is determined to make sure that lessons are learnt and that urgent action is now taken to prevent other young women from suffering as her daughter did. We hope the petition is the driving force for change.”

If you have suffered due to a delayed cervical cancer diagnosis or misdiagnosed cervical cancer, our medical negligence lawyers could help you claim compensation. Call 0808 163 4557 for a free initial consultation or see our Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims page for more details.