155,163 registered members
Ireland 'is taking cervical cancer seriously'
[Posted: Tue 19/01/2010 by Deborah Condon www.irishhealth.com]
The delay in introducing the cervical cancer vaccine to young girls in Ireland is a ‘nuisance’, but the country does appear to be taking cervical cancer control seriously now, the co-founder of the vaccine has told irishhealth.com.
According to Prof Ian Frazer, director of the Diamantina Institute of Cancer Immunology and Metabolic Medicine in Australia, the vaccine programme, along with the screening programme CervicalCheck, will help to reduce the burden of cervical cancer in Ireland. However he added that it was ‘frustrating’ that the screening programme had taken so long to introduce.
Last week, Health Minister, Mary Harney, announced the rollout of the cervical cancer vaccination programme for all 12-year-olds, beginning this June. The programme was set to begin last September, but was shelved due to budgetary constraints. Cervical Check meanwhile was launched on September 1, 2008, 20 years after a similar screening programme was introduced in the UK.
Current evidence suggests that the combination of a vaccination programme that vaccinates all 12-year-olds and an effective screening programme will cut cases of cervical cancer by 90%.
The vaccine protects girls against human papilloma virus (HPV). There are many types of HPV, most of which are harmless. However some can be serious, such as those that cause cervical cancer.
Around 80% of sexually active women become infected with HPV at some stage in their lifetime. Most of these infections have no noticeable symptoms and over 90% are cleared by the body’s immune system.
However if the body does not clear the infection, abnormal cells can develop in the lining of the cervix. These abnormal cells can become cancerous.
Speaking about his work which led to the development of the HPV vaccine, Prof Frazer acknowledged that ‘not many scientists’ get a chance to see their work evolve so far.
“It was tremendously exciting to be there at the conception of the thing and then see it actually get out there as a technology and then become a product that is available to be used. Not many scientists get a chance to do that,” he told irishhealth.com.
However he also emphasised the importance of cervical cancer screening. He pointed out that in Australia, around 60% of women are screened, while 40% are not.
“All of the cancers we see occur in those 40%,” he said.
Prof Frazer was in Ireland to attend the Irish Cancer Society’s (ICS) Charles Cully Memorial Lecture. Prior to the lecture, the ICS called on the National Immunisation Office (NIO), which is responsible for the implementation of the vaccination programme, to aim for the ‘highest participation rate in the programme as possible’.
“We are confident that parents will support their daughters in availing of this vaccine. But we hope that the NIO will address any potential issues that parents might have relating to safety or the concern that vaccination may prompt sexual activity in advance of the rollout,” said Dr Grainne Flannelly, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and chair of the ICS’s medical committee.
Once the vaccination programme is in place, the ICS is also calling on Minister Harney to ‘look for ways to deliver a catch-up programme for 13-15-year-olds as originally planned’.
“These three generations of girls should not lose out on this important cervical cancer preventative measure,” Dr Flannelly added.
The latest figures available from the National Cancer Registry Ireland show that 286 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2007. Of these, 59% were under the age of 39. Eighty-one women died from the disease in that year.
For more information on cervical screening and HPV vaccination, call the National Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700.
Read more on this here
|To join the discussion, register by clicking here|