Woman died of cancer after being refused smear test for being too young

Becky Ryder was told she could not be screened before 25th birthday and diagnosed with a different condition

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The Independent Online

A woman died of cancer after being refused a smear test 14 months earlier because she was too young.

Becky Ryder, an accountant from Bristol, was 24 when she requested a smear test after going to her GP with complaints of unexplained bleeding in October 2011. She was told by her a doctor that she could not have the test because she was under 25, the age at which women are routinely screened in England.

Mrs Ryder was wrongly diagnosed with erosion of the cervix, but on visiting a second doctor in March 2011, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Despite radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and being given the all clear a few months later, Mrs Ryder died on Valentine's Day this year.

Her husband, Paul, is now campaigning for women under the age of 25 to be allowed smear tests when they request one.

Mr Ryder, 35, said this week: "It is the question of whether a smear would have stopped the cancer in its tracks or allowed us to catch it earlier.

"I don’t think they will ever lower the age but I think they should definitely give it to people who ask for it and are concerned. If that had been the case when Becky asked for it, who knows what might have happened."

Mr Ryder says the original doctor told his wife that a smear test from someone under 25 would simply be refused at the laboratory and be returned .

The national age for routine testing in England was raised in 2003 from 20 to 25 and the Scottish Executive announced last year that it will do the same in 2015. However, screening is still available for women aged 20 and over in Wales.

Now Mr Ryder is asking whether he should have travelled with his wife across the Severn Bridge to be seen in Wales.

"I often think about whether we should have gone private and demanded one there, or whether we should have tried to go across the border into Wales, and got one there. It's all hindsight, though, but it plays on my mind," he said.

The reason younger women are excluded from routine testing is that abnormalities in testing results could lead to unnecessary treatment, according to the NHS.

A spokesman for the Department of Health told The Times: "Young women with symptoms of cervical cancer should be examined by their GP and referred onwards to a gynaecologist if clinically appropriate."