Woman, 23, died of cervical cancer 'because doctors said she was too young for a smear test'
Tragic death: Mercedes Curnow went to her GP aged 20 but her mother said her symptoms were 'ignored' until too late
A 23-year-old died of cervical cancer because doctors said she was too young for a smear test, her devastated family have claimed.
Mercedes Curnow, from Cornwall, first went to her GP at 20 years old but her mother says her symptoms were 'ignored' because of her age.
After a year of doctors visits, Ms Curnow was taken to A&E by a family member and diagnosed with cervical cancer in April 2010.
But by then it was too late and, after 33 radiotherapy sessions and nine months of chemotherapy, she died at home in her mother's arms on December 14 last year.
Ms Curnow's mother Sandra Cousins is furious that she was not screened for the disease, which killed reality TV star Jade Goody in 2009 aged 27.
'Had Mercedes had a smear test when she started to present symptoms, she would be alive today,' said Mrs Cousins, of Crowlas, near Penzance in Cornwall.
'It is an aggressive cancer and it races through the body. The sooner they catch this disease the better.'
Government legislation was changed in 2003 to mean regular smear tests are only given to women aged over 25, where previously all women over 20 were given the tests.
Mrs Cousins said: 'I had two children before I was 25. It is just horrendous that they don’t do anything earlier and I don’t understand it.
'When I look back now I don’t know how we got through any of it. To watch your own daughter crawl across the room and across her bed is totally soul destroying.
'But it’s what happens to all those girls, not just Mercedes. They are like a silent group. It feels like that.
'Mercedes said nobody was interested in cervical cancer because there are bigger cancers, despite what Jade Goody did.'
Ms Curnow had previously worked as a travel agent but left her job to study photography at Truro College.
Before she died, she ordered and wrapped Christmas presents for her family and friends to open.
Her distraught mother has now set up a foundation in her daughter's memory to encourage other young women under 25 to seek medical attention at the earliest possible signs of cervical cancer.
More than 1,000 people have joined the
Mercedes Curnow Foundation for the Detection of Cervical Cancer on
Facebook since it was launched on January 5.
The page reads: 'If their GP practice does not take notice of symptoms, then our goal is to provide help, support, advice and funding for private cervical smear tests for women/girls under 25.
'Had there been cervical smear testing offered in England as in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the age is 20, Mercedes would be alive today.'
Mrs Cousins hopes to bring about a change in the law to lower the age of regular testing back to 20.
Brave: Ms Curnow, right, died at home in the arms of her mother Sandra Cousins, left, who had spent 18 months nursing her
She said she and her daughter had discussed the idea before Ms Curnow's tragic death, and the 23-year-old had hoped to give talks in schools if she recovered.
A Department of Health spokesperson said an expert committee found that screening in women aged under 25 does more harm than benefit.
'Cervical screening is not a test for cancer, but tests for abnormalities that could in future develop into cancer,' said the spokesperson.
'In the vast majority of younger women, the abnormalities clear up on their own and are not a good indication of future cancer.
'Cervical cancer and mortality from it are very rare in women under 25. Since the starting age was raised in England in 2003 there has been no increase in mortality in women aged 20 to 24 or 25 to 30 years old.'