– Release date: 20 January 2008
A number of leading female Irish politicians demonstrated their support for European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week today (20 January) by wearing ‘Pearl of Wisdom’ badges and urging women throughout Ireland to be more vigilant about cervical cancer screening and vaccination.
European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week takes place all this week (20-26 January). Its aim is to promote better awareness of all aspects of cervical cancer and, in particular, to highlight how women can prevent it by having regular smear tests, which provides the best method of protection against cervical cancer. Women are also encouraged to discuss the merits of getting vaccinated against the disease with their GP. TDs Margaret Conlon, Joanna Tuffy and Catherine Byrne were joined by Karen Griffin, of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), to highlight the Week.
The Prevention Week is organised by the European Cervical Cancer Association (ECCA). In Ireland, the IFPA and a number of other organisations* have linked in with the ECCA to promote the Week and to ensure that Irish women become better informed about cervical cancer.
In addition, to encourage women to participate in cervical cancer prevention programmes, the ‘Pearl of Wisdom’ campaign has been developed. ‘Pearl of Wisdom’ badges have been distributed to high-profile women – including all female TDs and Senators – who will wear them over the coming week to demonstrate their support for the campaign. The badges are also on offer at all IFPA clinics as a reminder to female clients to have a smear test and to encourage friends and family to do likewise.
The IFPA is asking people to help in the struggle against cervical cancer by signing up to a ‘STOP Cervical Cancer’ petition at www.cervicalcancerpetition.eu.
Cervical cancer is a major global health problem, with nearly 500,000 new cases occurring worldwide each year. Across Europe, 50,000 women develop cervical cancer and 25,000 die each year from this preventable disease.
According to Dr. Tracy Murray, Medical Spokesperson with the IFPA, trends show the number of women dying from cervical cancer in Ireland has increased by 1.5 per cent every year since 1978.
“In Europe, a woman dies from cervical cancer every 18 minutes,” she said. “In Ireland, 180 women are newly diagnosed with cervical cancer and 73 women, on average, die from the disease each year. This is scandalous when you consider that cervical cancer is a preventable disease. We hope this Week will show Irish women how important it is to regularly attend clinics for smear tests, or vaccinate themselves against the disease.”
Cervical cancer is caused by a common virus, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is transmitted through sexual intercourse or intimate skin-to-skin genital contact. Up to 80 per cent of women will come into contact with the virus at some point in their lifetime.
However, Dr. Murray said that the majority of Irish women are unaware of what causes cervical cancer, or do not realise that it is a preventable disease. She pointed to an independent study carried out recently on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline, which showed high levels of confusion about cervical cancer amongst women in Ireland.
“The report showed that only 29 per cent of Irish women are aware that a vaccine for cervical cancer exists,” she said. “Despite the fact that cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women under 45, three out of four women don’t know what causes the disease. We hope that this Week will show Irish women how important it is to regularly attend clinics for smear tests and to discuss vaccination with their doctors if appropriate.”
For information on cervical screening, vaccination and cervical cancer, Freefone the National Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700. Staffed by specialist nurses and open Monday – Thursday 9am – 7pm and Fridays 9am – 5pm.
* European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is being co-ordinated in Ireland by the IFPA, and supported by the Dublin Well Woman Centre, the Marie Keating Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline.
Notes: The Double Helix report into Communications Gaps between women and HCPs in Cervical Cancer on behalf of GlaxoSmithKline was conducted with 400 Irish women in September 2007.