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"Details of the rethink were revealed as it emerged that hundreds of 12- and 13-year-old girls have reported debilitating side-effects after receiving the new vaccination against cervical cancer. Doctors have confirmed that almost 1,300 British schoolgirls suffered reactions, from alleged paralysis to facial bloating, fainting, skin discoloration and rashes after taking part in a mass vaccination programme launched last year."
 
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/health-news/uturn-on-cervical-cancer-tests-for-young-women-1639778.html
 

 

U-turn on cervical cancer tests for young women

Ministers rethink decision to cut routine screening for under-25s

By Brian Brady, Whitehall Editor

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Cancer tests that could save the lives of scores of young women are set to return, five years after they were cut amid controversy, health chiefs confirmed yesterday. Ministers are considering the return of cervical cancer screening for women under 25, after having restricted the tests to older women.

The Government raised the age for routine smear tests from 20 to 25 in 2004, after a study by Cancer Research UK, Britain's largest cancer charity, found that the incidence of the disease in teenage girls was very rare.

It claimed the risk to women under 25 was so low that screening might actually do more harm than good. Now ministers have agreed to rethink the decision after campaigners highlighted a series of tragedies since the move. Latest figures reveal that cervical cancer killed 27 women aged under 25 in England and Wales between 2002 and 2006 15 of them since 2004.

A senior ministerial source at the Department of Health (DH) last night confirmed a rethink was under way. "There were good reasons to change the policy in 2004," the source said. "But we have been confronted with the potential risks faced by many women in this age group, and it was clear we needed to look again. I think we can expect a change in policy."

The announcement has exposed the Government to claims that it is capitalising on media coverage of Jade Goody, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer last summer. The former Big Brother contestant is said to have only weeks to live.

The health minister Ann Keen told MPs that a review was under way after being questioned over the case of a Wearside mother, Claire Walker-Everett, who died from cervical cancer last September at the age of 23. Her local MP, Fraser Kemp, claimed the protection of testing could be offered to younger women "with greater safeguards".

"Two different systems have been operating in England and Northern Ireland, and in Scotland and Wales," he said. "If the argument of harm exists, and if damage is done to young women, that would be presumably demonstrated by looking at the data on those young women under 25 who are routinely screened in Scotland and Wales."

The Department of Health previously maintained that delaying screening until women are 25 was in line with national and international advice. A spokesman said: "Despite [under-25s] being much more likely to have cervical abnormalities, cervical cancer is very rare in this age group, and in most cases these abnormalities resolve themselves without any need for treatment."

However, Ms Keen admitted: "It is our duty to look at the evidence again. I thank all the charities and organisations that have been involved in bringing such detail to our attention, and I recognise why the research was acted on as it was."

Details of the rethink were revealed as it emerged that hundreds of 12- and 13-year-old girls have reported debilitating side-effects after receiving the new vaccination against cervical cancer. Doctors have confirmed that almost 1,300 British schoolgirls suffered reactions, from alleged paralysis to facial bloating, fainting, skin discoloration and rashes after taking part in a mass vaccination programme launched last year.

The DoH claimed the side-effects were within the range expected for a programme that has so far seen half a million schoolgirls vaccinated. It also insisted that the Cervarix vaccine had met "the rigorous safety and efficacy standards required for licensing in Europe and elsewhere".

But Jackie Fletcher, of the campaign group Justice Awareness and Basic Support (Jabs), said parents had not been given enough information on the vaccine. "We are not necessarily against this programme, but it has not been explained properly," she said. "Parents tell us they were never warned of any potential dangers, but their children have suffered side-effects."