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Young Women Delaying Cervical Cancer Checks

Experts Have Urged Women Concerned About Cervical Cancer To Seek Treatment As Soon As Possible


Young women with symptoms of cervical cancer may be missing vital opportunities to treat the disease early by not going to their doctor soon enough, according to new figures.

Researchers at King's College London and the University of Exeter Medical School carried out a study that is published today in the British Journal of General Practice.

They interviewed 128 females under the age of 30, all of whom had recently been diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Forty had received their diagnosis after seeking their GP's advice on symptoms; 86 had had their cancer picked up following routine cervical screening; and two had been diagnosed during treatment for an unrelated condition.

It was discovered that 28 per cent of participants had waited more than three months to see a doctor even though they had concerns about their health, with women under the age of 25 most likely to delay.

Ten of the women admitted they did not know what the symptoms of cervical cancer actually were. The most noticeable is usually vaginal bleeding outside the usual menstrual cycle, particularly after sexual intercourse, but signs can also include abdominal pain and unusual discharge.

Senior author of the study Dr Lindsay Forbes said it is vital that people are made aware of the dangers of this form of cancer and educated on how to spot it early.

"A better understanding of the importance of these symptoms could help promote earlier diagnosis and improve survival in this group," she pointed out.

Around one in 34 women will get cervical cancer at some point in their lives and there were 919 deaths from it in 2012. However, prospects for survival are good if it can be caught before it progresses, which is why the NHS in England offers routine screening for it to women aged 25 to 64.

There have recently been calls to lower this age limit to 16 following a string of cases in which much younger women were refused smear tests and went on to receive a cervical cancer diagnosis.

Expert Opinion
Early diagnosis and treatment plays a critical role in the chances of survival and recovery from cervical cancer and it is vital more is done to raise awareness of the disease and ensure young women know what symptoms to look out for and feel comfortable visiting their doctor to discuss their concerns.

“Although cervical cancer is rare in young women, we have seen a number of examples of the disease not being spotted early enough by doctors, as medical professionals dismissed the warning symptoms as other problems due to the patients age. It is vital that GPs carefully check the symptoms of people suffering with the symptoms of cervical cancer regardless of age to ensure early diagnosis and an increased chance of survival.”
Julie Lewis, Partner

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