Irish Times – 26 January 2010
By RONAN McGREEVY
COMPREHENSIVE prevention programmes can reduce rates of cervical cancer by an estimated 95 per cent, one of Europe’s leading experts on the disease has said.
European Cervical Cancer Association director general Dr Phillip Davies said a combination of screening and schools-based vaccination programmes could ensure near blanket coverage against the disease which kills about 90 Irish women every year.
Dr Davies will be one of the guest speakers at the 4th annual Cervical Cancer Summit which is being held at the European Parliament in Brussels today and tomorrow.
The summit, which coincides with Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, will be co-chaired by Irish MEP Marian Harkin.
Dr Davies said no other human disease was so preventable and, as a result, governments worldwide had a moral duty to do all they could to combat cervical cancer.
The summit will be addressed by Tony O’Brien, the chief executive of the National Cancer Screening Service, and by Sheila Caulfield, its head of communications, who will give a presentation about how the CervicalCheck programme has been successfully rolled out.
Ireland is now one of 14 countries in Europe with a nationwide organised cervical cancer screening programme and will be one of nine countries to provide a free vaccination programme.
Dr Davies said CervicalCheck was an “example of what other countries should be doing” and the Government’s decision to go ahead with a comprehensive vaccination programme for teenage girls, announced recently, would put Ireland in the “front rank” of countries in cancer prevention.
“This puts Ireland right up at the top with the likes of the UK, Norway and Netherlands, who are at the cutting edge of cervical cancer prevention,” he said.
He also urged that the vaccination programme be made available at schools as it ensures the widest possible coverage.
The success of the Irish CervicalCheck programme will be recognised tonight when the Irish Cervical Cancer Prevention Awareness and Advocacy programme wins a Pearl of Wisdom Cervical Cancer prevention award.
The initiative was set up by the Irish Family Planning Association to raise awareness of the cervical cancer screening programme.
The award is given internationally to people or organisations that make an exceptional effort to prevent cervical cancer in their communities.
Ms Harkin praised the Government’s U-turn in relation to the vaccination programme. Having initially claimed an inability to pay, the Minister for Health, Mary Harney, said last week that the vaccine was now affordable because pharmaceutical companies had lowered their prices.
“Combining a population-based organised screening programme along with a vaccination programme in a comprehensive cervical cancer prevention programme will give us in Ireland the opportunity to prevent almost all of the suffering and loss of life that currently results from cervical cancer,” said Ms Harkin.