A beauty queen aged 21 is calling for women as young as 18 to be given free cervical screening after suffering her own cancer scare.
Olivia Grant, who hopes to be crowned Miss Great Britain, paid for a test last year and learned she had CIN 2 – abnormal cells that, if untreated, can become cancerous.
Olivia, who is Miss York, said tests for young women are vital to spot the early signs of potential cancers.
But at present, the NHS only offers cervical screening to women aged 25 to 64.
Olivia told the Sunday People : “I had to pay for a test, I had to go private. It cost £380. I was lucky enough to be in a position to do that.
“When I was diagnosed I just thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. What if I’d left it for four years? What could have happened? How many women are in this position?’
“That’s why I launched the campaign to lower the age to 18. By reducing the age of smear tests and screening, we can save lives, we can tackle cell changes early and prevent cervical cancer.”
Olivia has launched an online petition and a podcast, Behind the Glass, where she speaks to other women about cancer.
She said: “It’s myself and other women talking about what needs to be done and what could be different. I spoke to one woman who was diagnosed with cancer at 23.
“It’s important we get this message out there. It’s tragically too late for some women but it’s not too late for the next generation.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to pay for my test before I was 25 but many women are not able to do so – and why should they have to?”
She hopes to use her platform in Miss GB to raise awareness.
The finals will be held in October in Birmingham and Olivia said: “Beauty pageants have historically had a negative reputation but the idea that they are an old-fashioned institution couldn’t be further from the modern-day pageant.
“Beauty pageants today inspire action and bring together like-minded women from across the globe.
“Pageants are about making impactful change, they raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity and help to shine a light on causes that need more awareness.”
Olivia works with Cancer Research UK and Alex’s Wish to raise awareness and boost funds for vital research.