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Women Encouraged to Pass on the Word about Screening During Cervical Cancer Week

By January 18, 2009News

Press Release – January 18 2009

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has said that women should pass on the word to their peers about the importance of regular smear testing, in an effort to reduce Ireland’s levels of cervical cancer. Launching European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week today, the IFPA’s Medical Director, Dr. Caitriona Henchion, said, “Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of early mortality among women in the under-44 age-group in Ireland. Each year, almost 75 lives are lost to the disease, which is highly preventable with early detection of abnormal cells.

“Now that Ireland has a cervical screening programme in place – which means that women from the age of 25 to 60 can access free testing – we are in a position to drastically reduce levels of cervical cancer through early detection of abnormal cells. Women who have been for their smear, and who understand the importance of regular testing, should encourage their friends and colleagues to do likewise.

Spreading the word about cervical cancer prevention is vital.” As part of its awareness-raising work during European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, the IFPA is distributing 10,000 ‘Pearls or Wisdom’, which are specially commissioned badges that will be offered to women who attend for a smear at an IFPA clinic this week. It is hoped that the badges will act as a talking point amongst women, so that increased numbers will be encouraged by their peers to have a smear test.

According to Dr. Henchion, “While it is very disappointing that the Government has postponed plans to introduce a programme of free HPV vaccination for young girls, the good news is that CervicalCheck, National Cervical Screening Programme – which was long-awaited and much overdue – is now in place since September. “Under the Programme, women can attend their local GP, family planning service or other registered smear-taker to have a free smear test. The test only takes a few minutes and women only need to attend every three to five years, depending on their age.”

During today’s launch, the IFPA highlighted a number of facts about cervical cancer screening:

  • Cervical cancer takes a long time to develop and often has no signs or symptoms. Screening is the only way to ensure that any abnormal cells in the cervix are detected early and treated early, thereby preventing the development of the cancer.
  • All women between the ages of 25 and 64 should have regular smear tests.Women between 25 and 60 get free smear tests through CervicalCheck.
  • A smear test is a simple procedure. It involves a doctor or nurse taking a sample of cells from the cervix using a small brush. The cells are then sent to a lab to be examined for any abnormalities. If the lab results show no abnormalities, the doctor will inform the client to return for another smear in three to five years (depending upon her age). If the lab results show abnormalities, the doctor will advise the client to either return for another smear in three to six months or will make a referral to a specialist clinic for further investigation.

Assisting with today’s launch was the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr. Eibhlin Byrne, and Úna Kavanagh, who plays Heather Daly in ‘Fair City’. According to the Lord Mayor, “As a mother of three daughters, I understand the importance of speaking with them about building in regular smear testing as part of their overall healthcare when they reach 25. “There are a lot of myths and fears about going for a smear test, but – in reality – it’s a simple procedure that just takes a few minutes and can save lives. This Week is the type of awareness-raising initiative that we need to get the simple and correct facts out there, so that women’s lives are not lost unnecessarily through cervical cancer.”

ENDS

Further Information: Catherine Heaney / Martina Quinn, DHR Communications, Tel: 01-4885808 / 087-2309835 / 087-6522033