THE public health consultant who backed our Jen's Final Wish campaign to raise awareness about cervical cancer has implored more teenage girls and young women to go for preventative treatment.
In the wake of Amersham graphic designer Jen Goodridge's death, NHS Buckinghamshire's Dr Clare Strong has written to the Advertiser to push home the importance of getting tested.
She said: "The number of women coming forward for potentially life-saving cervical screening could be increased by almost 20 per cent in Buckinghamshire, as just under 9,000 women each year do not take up the offer of regular free NHS screening, which can detect abnormalities before they develop into cancer.
"Some women can be a bit fearful of taking part in screening because they think it can be embarrassing. But this screening can help prevent cancer developing and it has been proven that it works."
The Advertiser is currently appealing to Facebook users to sign a petition to have the age when compulsory screening letters are sent out reduced from 25 to 20, in line with Scotland and Wales – Jen died at 24.
Dr Clare Strong said: “NHS Buckinghamshire follows the current national policy for cervical screening in England based on clinical evidence. Research has shown that screening women under the age of 25 may do more harm than good. It can lead to unnecessary treatments that can cause women to have an increased risk of a having a premature baby, which can endanger both the women and her baby.
"The starting age is kept under review nationally by the Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening. Further research is under way that will provide additional information about how cervical cancer presents in women aged 20 – 24, with the aim of seeing if improvements could be made to detect cancer in this age group."
Following a meeting with Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan, Jen's brother David Sidebottom is hoping to meet with ACCS to discuss the current position soon, as he feels false positives results are worth the risk if it prevents others contracting cervical cancer like his sister before the age of 25.
Rob Music, director Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, understands it is a tricky issue.
"The age was reduced last year and you have to respect that decision because there were a lot of very eminent researchers involved.
"But on the other hand we pressure the ACCS to continue to research the various factors and ensure the age range is right. The gap between having the HPV vaccine treatment and receiving the first screening letters is a big one, that's why we're happy there is a clear pathway in place now for women who spot the symptoms to go to their GP and if they persist ensure they are referred to a gynaecologist.
"The most important thing is girls get the vaccine programme and women know what the symptoms are and go for screening tests."
Dr Strong concurred: "All girls in year eight (aged 12 - 13) in Buckinghamshire are now routinely offered the HPV vaccine at school, but when they grow up these girls still need to take up the offer of cervical screening.
"We're urging women that - no matter how busy their lives might be with family and work - please, if you get a screening invitation, respond to it."
Visit here to sign our petition.