Doctor talking to female patient
February 13, 2019

Irish Cancer Society Statement on CervicalCheck backlog

The Irish Cancer Society has said that news of a backlog of 78,000 women’s CervicalCheck slides and a delay of 27 weeks in receiving results will cause anxiety and distress for people waiting. The organisation is calling for urgent Government action to eliminate these delays and restore confidence in CervicalCheck.

Head of Services, Donal Buggy, has said: “Recent media reports about the CervicalCheck backlog and the delay in receiving results will have caused further anxiety and worry for some women, at a vulnerable time. The Irish Cancer Society encourages anyone who is concerned to contact our Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700 or to visit one of our Daffodil Centres in 13 hospitals around the country, where we can offer support and advice.

“The Irish Cancer Society is extremely concerned at the number of slides that are caught in the backlog and the delays women are experiencing when waiting for results. Efforts must be redoubled to alleviate these delays as a matter of urgency and to end the poor experiences for women who are waiting. The delays will not only impact the women who availed of the free smear in 2018, but the women who are now being invited for a smear as part of their scheduled screening cycle.

More than 100,000 out of cycle tests in 2018 has led to increased referrals to colposcopy services resulting in increased waiting times to have an abnormal smear result investigated. These delays must be eliminated before primary HPV testing can take place, which has been promised to start later this year. Furthermore, the Irish Cancer Society wants reassurance that the colposcopy capacity exists for HPV screening. We know the initial impact of HPV testing will be increased referrals to colposcopy units, highlighting the need to build up capacity ahead of that.

“We want all necessary action to be taken to restore confidence in CervicalCheck which is a life-saving screening programme. More than 3 million cervical screening tests have taken place in Ireland since 2008, and over 50,000 cases of pre-cancer and cancer have been detected and treated following cervical screening.”

The Irish Cancer Society advises that it is important to remember that smear tests identify pre-cancerous changes rather than cancerous cells, so if someone is experiencing signs and symptoms, they should visit their GP who can advise them of an appropriate course of action.

Even if a woman has had a recent normal screening result, she should never ignore symptoms.

Symptoms of cervical cancer include:

  • a pain in your pelvis (anywhere between your bellybutton and the tops of your thighs)
  • irregular vaginal bleeding
  • bleeding between periods
  • vaginal spotting or discharge
  • pain during sex
  • bleeding after sex