100 cancers detected by CervicalCheck

  • Deborah Condon

One-hundred women were diagnosed with cervical cancer after availing of free smear tests by CervicalCheck in its first year of operation.

CervicalCheck, the National Cervical Screening Programme, became available to over 1.1 million women aged 25 to 60 on September 1, 2008. The overall aim of CervicalCheck is to reduce the incidence and mortality rate of cervical cancer by detecting changes in the cells of the cervix before they become cancerous.

According to the programme's first Annual Report, which covers the period September 1, 2008, to August 31, 2009, 284,833 women were given free smear tests.

Of these, almost 85% were deemed normal. However 13.9% showed low grade abnormalities, while 1.4% showed high grade abnormalities.

A total of 11,112 women were referred for a colposcopy to allow for further investigation. A colposcopy examination allows a specialist to look at any abnormal cells in your cervix more closely and decide if you need treatment. The procedure is carried out in the same way as a smear test.

Over 4,700 women received treatment at colposcopy.

The report noted that while the purpose of cervical screening is to detect changes in the cells of the cervix before they become cancerous, 100 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer during the reporting period.

According to Tony O'Brien, director of the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS), the performance of CervicalCheck ‘has exceeded all expectations'.

"Almost 285,000 women benefited from CervicalCheck during its initial year of screening. Each of these women has benefited from a quality assured cervical screening programme that operates in line with the highest international standards.

"Regular smear tests at recommended intervals can prevent cervical cancer. Some women will be offered up to 11 routine smear tests and will remain part of the CervicalCheck programme for 35 years and we must continually focus on maintaining a high uptake of cervical screening in the years ahead," he said.

The majority of the women screened were in the younger age groups, with numbers falling with increasing age. The highest level of uptake was among women aged 25 to 29, representing 20% of all women screened. The second highest level was among women aged 30 to 35, representing 19% of all women screened.

The lowest level of uptake was among women aged 55 to 60, representing 6% of all women screened. The programme will put increased emphasis on encouraging women in this age group to participate in screening, it said.

Some nine in 10 smear tests were taken in the primary care setting, primarily in GP practices. The remainder of smear tests were carried out at colposcopy, gynaecology and sexually transmitted infection/gentio-urinary medicine (STI/GUM) clinics.

Of those who had their smear tests carried out in a primary care setting, 92% attended a GP practice ,while 8% attended a clinic other than a GP practice, such as a family planning, women's health or Well Woman clinic.

Read more analysis on the CervicalCheck report here

For more information on CervicalCheck, click here


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