THE dying wish of a Wirral teenager who lost her fight with cervical cancer earlier this year has moved one step closer after ministers pledged a further day in Parliament would be devoted to the issue.
MPs gathered in Parliament on Thursday for a landmark debate on the lessons that could be learned after the death of 19 year old Sophie Jones.
The Eastham teenager died from cervical cancer on March 15 after being diagnosed with the disease in November.
Medical professionals had told the aspiring model that she was too young to have contracted it, putting her severe stomach pains down to Crohn’s disease.
It was only when she was admitted to hospital when her condition worsened, that doctors discovered the former South Wirral High School student’s cancer had already spread.
The session in Parliament followed a record-breaking e-petition set up Sophie’s memory, which has so far gathered more than 320,000 signatures, making it the most supported petition in the government website’s history.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt did not attend the debate, where Health Minister Jane Ellison was challenged.
Wirral South MP Alison McGovern said it was an “honour” to contribute to such an important debate.
Ms McGovern, who represents Sophie’s home of Eastham, said: “Sophie had high aspirations for her life, and she had hopes and plans.
“She was clearly a vibrant, clever, beautiful young woman with her whole life ahead of her.”
She said Sophie’s request for a smear test had been refused by her GP “on the basis of her age”.
“The disease is rare in younger women, but in this case a smear test would have been important.
“Even though the numbers are relatively small, it is important that we take the issue seriously.”
Approximately 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year, with around 2.5 cases of cervical cancer for every 100,000 women under 25.
Ms McGovern said it was vital to raise GPs’ awareness of such conditions and to pick up on the symptoms.
She added that she understood there are potential risks in screening women under 25 but women should be listened to by health professionals and not told what to do.
“Too often what is done to young women is they are given advice and told what to do, or at worst, instructed, which is totally disempowering,” she said.
“Rather than trying to instruct people, we need to listen to them, respect them, provide them with information and help them to find their own way to the right treatment.
“There is no future for a health service that thinks it can tell people, it has to empower people to make their own decisions.”
Ms McGovern said it was also important to encourage more people to take up the invitation of a smear test.
Martin Horwood, Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham, disputed the Department of Health’s position that screening girls under 25 could do more harm than good.
He said fresh figures showed that while the number of diagnoses in under 25s had dropped since the age limit for routine screening was raised from 20 to 25, cancer in women aged 25 had tripled.
He said: “We have actually increased the risk at the age of 25 and above of people having had undiagnosed cancer before then. It is a very serious conclusion.”
Health Minister Jane Ellison said the department would review the information brought to her attention but said “the age at which screening starts in England is based on sound evidence”.
She pledged that there would be a further day in Parliament to tackle cervical cancer.