Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Real Smeargate: Remember?

Devolution brings so many benefits to the United Kingdom, at least to those parts outside England. Since 2003, Englishwomen have had to wait until they are 25 before they are offered cervical "smear"* tests by the English NHS. Women in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland continue to be offered them from 20 onwards. Oddly, the NHS cervical screening programme website does not mention this. This page from the Jo's Trust website sets out the unequal state of affairs. The increase in age eligibility in England was the result of research based on statistics from all over the UK. But the non-existent English Assembly / Government did not have the delegated powers of the other nations to ignore the recommendations of the research paper and prioritise the interests of Englishwomen. Instead, like free prescriptions etc, the UK Department of Health could not justify the expenditure in England.
As a result of the recent death of Jade Goody, an expert panel will report later this year on the benefits of restoring 20 upwards testing for Englishwomen.

There is a petition to reduce the starting age to 18 in England here.

The spatula and slide technology which gave rise to the term smear (ie putting the sample on a glass microscope slide) is being replaced by a technique called liquid based cytology in which

"The sample is collected in a similar way to the conventional smear, using a special device which brushes cells from the neck of the womb. [ ] the brush, where the cells are lodged, is broken off into a small glass vial containing preservative fluid, or rinsed directly into the preservative fluid. The sample is sent to the laboratory where it is spun and treated to remove obscuring material, for example mucus or pus, and a random sample of the remaining cells is taken. A thin layer of the cells is deposited onto a slide. The slide is examined in the usual way under a microscope by a cytologist."

1 comment:

CherryPie said...

I hope the campaign succeeds. The cells are fully treatable if caught early enough.