- Sorcha Glenn, 23, died from terminal cervical cancer on October 24th
- Had asked her GP for a smear test more than a year earlier but was refused
- This was because she was under the national age limit of 25 years old
- Had wanted a test as her grandmothers had both died from the disease
- In August 2013 she visited the GP for bleeding and back pain
- GP carried out a smear test and a month later she was diagnosed with cancer
- Miss Glenn then underwent months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy
- Her family were told her cancer was terminal on October 7th
- Just 17 days later Miss Glenn died in her boyfriend’s arms
- Before she died she managed to buy her family’s Christmas presents
- Now, her family are campaigning screen tests to be given on demand
- Although smear tests cannot diagnose cervical cancer, they pick up abnormal cells which may turn cancerous
- But doctors say screening women under 25 ‘does more harm than good’
A young woman died from cervical cancer at just 23 years old, a year after being refused a smear test her family believe could have saved her.
Sorcha Glenn, from Derry, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in September 2013, and died just over a year later on October 24th.
Two months before being diagnosed she had begged her doctor for a smear test, worried about a family history of cervical cancer, but was refused.
This is because she was not yet 25, the age at which women are invited for their first test in the UK.
Her family are now campaigning for women to be given the test, which picks up abnormal cells that may turn into cancer, on demand, as they believe this could have saved her life.
Sorcha Glenn, 23, died from terminal cervical cancer in October this year, after asking for a smear test more than a year ago as she was worried about a family history of the disease. Here, she is pictured before being diagnosed
Miss Glenn was refused a smear test as she wasn’t yet 25 – the age at which women are invited for their first screening. She is pictured (left and right) before being diagnosed
Despite receiving treatment, Miss Glenn’s family and her boyfriend Matt Lynch (right) were told her cancer was terminal on October 7th
After going back to her doctor in August 2013 complaining of bleeding and back pain, she was finally given a smear test, and diagnosed with cervical cancer a month later.
She underwent several rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but despite the treatment, her family were told her cancer was terminal on October 7th.
Despite being terminally ill, Miss Glenn began buying her family’s Christmas gifts while receiving treatment in hospital.
She made sure each family member had a present to open this Christmas day, before she passed away in her boyfriend’s arms on October 24th.
Her boyfriend, Matt Lynch, said: ‘Sorcha was such an organised person that I wasn’t surprised when she finished all of her Christmas shopping early.
‘It was typical of her to think of other people while being in so much pain and discomfort.
‘She kept on buying us all things while she was in hospital but she kept it all a secret.
‘I still have no idea what she bought me so it will be bittersweet moment on Christmas day when I finally open my gift.’
Miss Glenn’s story is the latest in a string of women diagnosed with cervical cancer before the age of 25.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CERVICAL CANCER?
Symptoms of the disease are not always obvious and may not appear until it is in an advanced stage.
In most cases, abnormal bleeding is the first sign. It usually occurs after sex although any unusual bleeding should be investigated.
Other symptoms include pain in and around the vagina during sex, an unpleasant smelling discharge and pain when passing urine.
If the cancer has spread there may be other symptoms including constipation, blood in the urine, loss of bladder control, bone pain and swelling in the legs and kidneys.
In the past nine months alone, MailOnline has reported the stories of four women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer before they were 25, many of whom asked for smear tests but were denied them.
Miss Glenn first visited her GP surgery in June 2013 – she asked for an early smear test after being worried about her family history of cervical cancer, having lost both grandmothers to the disease.
She was refused due to being under the age of 25-years-old.
Although smear tests cannot diagnose cervical cancer, they pick up abnormal cells which may turn cancerous.
Mr Lynch said: ‘She began suffering from back pain and had bleeding between periods just two months later, she knew something wasn’t right.
‘After being initially refused a smear test she went back to her GP who carried out a smear as part of an examination.
‘They noticed a polyp, a mass of tissue, on her cervix and she was referred.’
Miss Glenn , who worked as a retail manager, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in September and underwent rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in a bid to save her life.
Mr Lynch said: ‘Last Christmas was a scary time but we really thought Sorcha would beat it, none of us every anticipated that she would die 13-months after being diagnosed.
‘We had just moved in together and she had landed a new job, everything was on the up until she was diagnosed with cancer.’
He slept at Sorcha’s bedside throughout her treatment in hospital and devoted his time, along with her family, to ensure she was happy.
After complaining of abnormal bleeding in August 2013, Miss Glenn was given a smear test and a month later was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She is pictured undergoing the chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment that followed
Her family are campaigning for all women to be given a smear test on demand, which they believe may have saved Sorcha’s life. She is pictured (left) with her mother Christina (right)
Mr Lynch said: ‘It didn’t matter where me and Sorcha were, we would always have a laugh.
‘In the last few months I took the role as being her carer, I took time off work to help at the hospital.
‘We didn’t tell Sorcha that she was terminally ill as we didn’t want her to give up – but she knew she was deteriorating.
‘Deep down we sometimes think she knew she didn’t have long left, she just wanted to make sure we were all happy on Christmas Day.’
Miss Glenn’s mother, Christina, 58, said she is looking forward to seeing what Sorcha bought her for Christmas, a time of year her daughter loved.
She said: ‘Sorcha would always nag me to put up the decorations early.
‘It was a time of year she really enjoyed and I know she wouldn’t want us to be sad but we all miss her terribly.
‘I have no idea what she has bought me for Christmas but it breaks my heart knowing she won’t be here to share the day with us.
‘I hope that by sharing Sorcha’s story that other women look out for the symptoms of cervical cancer and sign her petition so those under 25-years-old can get a smear test on demand.
‘I don’t want another family to go through what we’ve been through.’
Sorcha’s two grandmothers also died from cervical cancer but medical professionals have told the family that her cancer was not genetic.
The national age for smear tests was changed from 20 to 25 in 2003, because health officials said the evidence showed testing women under the age of 25 ‘may do more harm than good.’
This is because under 25, women undergo natural and harmless changes in the cervix that screening would identify as abnormal.
Her family recall how she loved Christmas and would always nag them to put decorations up early. She is pictured (left) with boyfriend Matt (right) on Chrismas 2012, before she was diagnosed with cancer
Throughout her treatment, Sorcha’s family and her boyfriend Matt (pictured right) slept alongside her bed to ensure she was happy. She is pictured left with her father Vincent and her boyfriend Matt is pictured right
This could lead to unnecessary and harmful investigations and treatments which could have an adverse effect on their future childbearing.
But Sorcha’s boyfriend and family believe an earlier smear test could have saved her life.
Mrs Glenn said: ‘I want government to stop discriminating against young women as it is has such devastating consequences.
‘An early smear can literally save the life of a young woman as it is a preventable disease as are all cancers if caught in the very early stages.
‘Sorcha wanted to help others even when she was really ill in hospital so we are campaigning in her name to try and save lives.’
Miss Glenn’s mother Christina says the 25 age limit for smear tests ‘discriminates’ against young women, but cancer charities say screening on demand could lead to unecessary treatment and could even slow down a cancer diagnosis. Miss Glenn is pictured (left) with boyfriend Matt Lynch (right) before her diagnosis
However, a spokesperson for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said they would not support offering women smear tests on demand as it would lead to unnecessary treatment and could even slow down a cancer diagnosis.
Spokesperson Maddy Durrant said: ‘The problem with on demand is that it might cause more girls to demand smear test when they don’t need it.
‘That can lead to unnecessary tests, false positives and treatments that aren’t necessary.
‘If women present with abnormal bleeding there is a pathway in place where women should get colposcopy, a test which takes an in depth look at a women’s cervix.
‘They can treat those cells, laser them off or send them off for a biopsy, which tests for cancer.
‘If you have a screening test at that point it could slow down the diagnosis.
‘Screening isn’t 100 per cent effective and there is no guarantee it would pick up abnormalities and the cancer.’
Miss Glenn’s story comes after a report released last month found fewer women under 30 present themselves for smear tests than older women.
‘Sorcha wanted to help others even when she was really ill in hospital so we are campaigning in her name to try and save lives,’ her mother Christina said. Sorcha is pictured on a Christmas decoration in the family’s home. They will open the gifts Sorcha left for them on Christmas day
Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre found that number of women aged 25 to 29 screened last year was considerably lower than those in older age groups.
Only 63 per cent of women aged 25 to 29 were screened by 31 March 2014, compared to 82 per cent of women aged 50 to 54.
A majority (93 per cent) of young women screened had a negative result, with just over one per cent shown to have a ‘high-grade abnormality’, which could lead to cervical cancer.
Last month MailOnline reported on the story of a young mother who faces her last Christmas with her family, after her first smear test at 25 led to a terminal cervical cancer diagnosis.
Aimee Willet, 26, is spending her last months campaigning to lower the national smear test age.
She went for her first smear test last December, after turning 25 – the age at which NHS screening currently starts.
Last month MailOnline reported on the story of Aimee Willett, 26 (centre), who is facing a heartbreaking Christmas with her two young sons Charlie, eight (right) and Kaleb, three (left) after her first smear test at 25 found incurable cancer
Doctors gave her the devastating news that she had cancerous cells. In June she faced a second blow, as experts said another, inoperable tumour had been found.
Now, she hopes to give her children the best Christmas ever – as it could be her last – and also plans to marry her fiancé.
In September, MailOnline told the tragic story of Jess Evans, a mother who died from cervical cancer – after being turned down for a smear test nine times by her GP.
Doctors repeatedly sent her away, saying her symptoms were caused by her body getting back to normal after the birth of her son Riley.
Now her mother is backing an e-petition calling on the Government to lower the smear test age from 25 to 16.
She believes her daughter would still be alive had she been offered a test.
Aspiring model Sophie Jones, 19 (left), died of cervical cancer, after being refused a smear test because she was under 25. And in August, Dawn Weston, 24 (right), died from the disease just four months after her wedding, having been repeatedly told she too was too young for the test
In August, MailOnline reported on the story of Dawn Weston, who died from cervical cancer just four months after her wedding, having been repeatedly told she was too young for a smear test.
She was 24 when she visited her doctor with excruciating back pain in December 2012 – but was denied the simple procedure because she was under the minimum age of 25.
It took weeks of repeated visits to her GP before she was eventually given the test, which confirmed she did have cancer.
And in March, 19-year-old aspiring model Sophie Jones died of cervical cancer, after being refused a smear test because she was under 25. Her family say all young women who have symptoms and want one should automatically be given a test.
A ‘WORRYING’ RISE IN CERVICAL CANCER CASES AMONG WOMEN AGED 25 TO 29 AS BARRIERS TO SCREENING STOP YOUNGER WOMEN HAVING TEST
Around 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed across the UK each year – the majority in England.
Maddy Durrant, of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said while rates are increasing at a steady rate, there has been a ‘worrying’ jump in incidence of the disease in women aged 25 to 29.
The latest figures available for cervical cancer rates date back to 2011.
They showed a nine per cent rise from 2,305 cases of the disease in 2010 to 2, 511 the following year.
In women aged 20 to 24, cases over that period fell slightly from 45 to 43. But in the age group 25 to 29 cases rose from 306 to 353 – a 15 per cent jump.
The latest incidence rates for cervical cancer show from 2010 to 2011 rates increased by nine per cent across the UK. Among those aged 20 to 24 cases fell from 45 to 43, but in the age group 25 to 29 rates jumped 15 per cent from 306 to 353
In 99 per cent of cases, cervical cancer occurs as a result of a history of infection with high-risk types of HPV.
Mrs Durrant said there are hopes the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine, which was introduced in 2008 to help combat cervical cancer rates, will begin to prove effective as the first generation offered the jab enter the cervical cancer screening programme in the coming years.
By 2025 experts predict there will be a two-thirds reduction in cervical cancer rates thanks to the HPV vaccine, which was introduced on the NHS in 2008
HPV is spread via sexual contact and causes cervical cancer in women as well as cancer of the throat, anus and penis.
Around half the population will be infected with HPV at some time in their life.
In most cases it does no harm, because your immune system combats the infection. But in some cases, the infection persists and can cause more serious health problems.
‘As women start to come through from the HPV vaccine programme to the cervical screening programme, we should see a reduction,’ Ms Durrant said.
‘By 2025 we should see a two-thirds reduction in cervical cancer rates, across the board.’
Ms Durrant said the conclusion of a review in 2009 was that testing women under the age of 25 ‘could do more harm than good’.
She said it is vital that younger women are aware of the symptoms, including abnormal bleeding and pain during sex, and raise them with their GP as soon as possible.
If you are concerned about symptoms but are under 25 you have the right to an internal examination, she said.
Ms Durrant highlighted that those already showing symptoms would not need a smear test, rather they should be fast-tracked for specialist testing that looks for cancer specifically.
Smear tests are not designed to detect cancer. Instead they look for abnormalities that have the potential to develop into cancer at a later date.
‘There is a pathway in place that means a patient should be checked or referred if they are exhibiting symptoms,’ Ms Durrant told MailOnline.
‘We advise women to challenge their doctor if they say they do not need a examination.
‘Cervical cancer is rare in women under 25, but it’s not impossible.’