After being classed as too young for a smear test which could have save life, a young mother has died from cervical cancer.
24-year-old Rachel Sarjantson, battled the disease for a year before her death which her family says as "completely avoidable" The legal age for a smear test is 25, and despite her being called early for the test, it was too late as the aggressive cancer had already taken over her body.
AdvertisementHer mum, Lisa Rich, said, "She was a loving person and very close with her little boy. Throughout the whole thing, she remained positive. She never gave in and made a bucket list because as far as she was concerned she was going to beat it."
Rachel, of Blackpool, Lancashire, North West England, was so devoted to her 20-month-old son that she even timed her radiotherapy treatment on the morning of his first birthday, so that he could still have a party in the evening.
The illness forced her to cancel her wedding with fiancé Karl Hyde in March and she sadly died on August 12, just hours after doctors told her there was nothing more they could do.
Lisa said: "She was trying to plan camping trips. She really wanted to get better and to carry on - as far as she was concerned that's what she was going to do. Even when the doctors said you don't have to have any more operations if you don't want, she said 'no, that would be giving in'."
Despite Rachel being called for a smear test months before most women are classed as eligible, it was too late as she had already been diagnosed with the aggressive cancer. The doctors thought she was in the clear after a radical hysterectomy last summer and four weeks of radiotherapy.
During April she was told the cancer had returned and by then her body was too weak to withstand the chemotherapy treatment. For the final time she was admitted to hospital on June 30 and remained there until she was transferred to Trinity Hospice in Blackpool, on August 12, where she died the same day.
Now her family members are campaigning to lower the age limit for cervical screening and prevent other young woman dying as Rachel did. Lisa said: "She didn't need to suffer this - it was tragic and completely avoidable. It shouldn't be happening in this country." Her family said that if the symptoms had been spotted earlier, a simple procedure could have prevented the tumor developing.
The lower age limit for cervical screening is currently 20 but is due to rise to 25 next year in Scotland. Health experts say younger women often get false positives and the "harms of screening women under the age of 25 are currently thought to outweigh the benefits".
Rachel's sister Zoe said, "If the age limit had been lowered already, she might still be here. So many young girls are dying of it. Maybe in time they can help other mums, for their children's sake if not anything else."
Prior to Rachel's death friends had began raising money to help cover the costs of her respite and recovery. A recent petition to lower the screening age limit to 16 received more than 300,000 signatures.