The need for a national screening programme for cervical cancer was highlighted this week by Deputy Frank Feighan at the start of European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (20th--26th January) which aims to raise awareness of cervical cancer and how it can be prevented by regular smear tests and vaccination.
“There is currently no cervical screening programme in Ireland. A working party was appointed in 1992 by the Minister for Health to review the possibility of introducing cervical screening in Ireland. In 1996, 12 years ago, the committee recommended the introduction of a national cervical screening programme.
“In October 2007 Health Minister Mary Harney told the Dáil that the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) was planning to roll out a screening programme on a national basis this month, but there is no sign of this happening. The latest word we have from the NCSS is that a screening programme will be launched during the course of this year.
“Of the 180 women currently diagnosed in Ireland with cervical cancer every year, up to 77 will die. A successful national screening programme has the potential to cut this figure by 80 percent. Cervical cancer rates have been growing steadily in this country at a rate of 1.5 percent a year, while countries such as the UK that have a screening programme have shown their rates falling by as much as 5 percent.
“As we have seen with the much-delayed rollout of a breast screening programme, the women of Ireland are being told by the Government that their health must wait. Many will die or suffer unnecessarily from a disease that is entirely preventable. Prevention is always better than the cure and early detection of this disease can dramatically reduce the mortality rate. The delay in introducing a screening programme, in light of the research, does not make medical or financial sense.
“I want European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week to benefit Irish women and I am calling on the Minister to provide a detailed timeframe of the proposed rollout of the programme.”