Government action demanded on smear tests
TWO North East families of young mothers who died in their early 20s are campaigning to overturn Government policy on smear tests.
Sophie Blackett, from Tow Law, County Durham, and Claire Walker-Everett, from Washington, Tyne and Wear, were both 23 when they died earlier this year.
Both women, mothers to small boys, asked doctors to be screened for cervical cancer before dying from the disease.
They were both refused the test, which is routine for women over 25, and were told they were at low risk. On Saturday night family and friends of Sophie, a former store supervisor who died in May, organised a petition-signing event at Helme Park Hotel near Tow Law.
Smear tests are not offered to women by the NHS in England until they reach the age of 25, while in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland they are available at 20.
Mrs Blackett’s husband Paul, a motor mechanic of Bridge Street, Tow Law, said his wife would have still been with him and their three-year-old son Charlie if they had lived north of the border.
“I feel very angry because this could have been prevented. Sophie suspected something was wrong but she was refused a smear test.
“I have since learnt that exactly the same thing happened to Claire, who was the same age and in the same position, the mother of a young boy.”
In September this year Claire Walker-Everett, from Glebe, Washington lost her two-year battle with cervical cancer. She left behind husband Colin and son Alex, two. She was also 23.
After their daughter’s death, parents Bob and Lyn Walker from Roche Court, Washington, wrote a heartfelt plea to Buckingham Palace asking the Queen to back their bid for a change in the law.
A letter from the palace said the Queen would pass on their campaign to the Health Secretary.
Mrs Walker, 55, said: “We wrote a letter explaining everything that had happened and asking why was England different to everywhere else, and we told her about Claire and how she left behind her little boy and husband.”
Claire’s family believe that if she had been screened for cervical cancer she may still be alive today.
Claire was diagnosed with the disease when she was 21 – four years before she was eligible for a smear test, which would have picked up the symptoms.
The two families’ campaign is backed by the charity Cancer Research.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Research has found screening women under the age of 25 can lead to unnecessary and harmful investigations and treatments.
On Tuesday, November 18 Helme Park is hosting a second event with local band The Dwaltons, Disco, Hot Buffet & Raffle. Tickets £15 per head. All acts are donating their services and all proceeds going to Sophie Campaign