Cork cancer survivor calls for resources to help restore confidence: Women left anxious following latest smear tests review 

Cork cancer survivor calls for resources to help restore confidence: Women left anxious following latest smear tests review 
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

WOMEN have been left anxiously waiting for the results of the largest review of smear tests undertaken since cervical cancer screening began in Ireland, according to a Cork woman impacted by the CervicalCheck controversy.

It was revealed in recent days that the review, led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, uncovered large numbers of previously missed abnormalities. The review was ordered after the cancer screening service was thrown into the spotlight last year. It emerged a previous, smaller review of slides by the screening programme had not been disclosed to affected women.

The screening service endured further controversy in July this year after it was revealed by RTÉ that around 800 women and GPs did not get their screening results due to an IT issue. More than 4,000 women were not given their smear results due to the IT glitch.

The Irish Times reported this week that the latest review, from the RCOG in the UK, has uncovered hundreds of “discordant” or different results after re-examining the slides of more than 1,000 women who were given the all-clear by CervicalCheck but then later developed cancer. The paper claimed that while the extent of the individual divergences from the initial results is not yet known, the review has found some cancers could have been prevented. The college is due to submit an aggregate report to Minister for Health Simon Harris shortly.

Speaking to The Echo, Midleton native Carol Murray, who was affected by the controversy, said she is not surprised that the number of people impacted has risen since last April. A 33-year-old mother-of-two, Ms Murray’s cervical smear test taken in 2010 had been read incorrectly. She was eventually diagnosed with cervical cancer in July 2011, more than 12 months after the initial test should have resulted in follow-up tests.

“When this first broke last year I knew the number would dramatically rise and the 221 would end up being a lot higher,” she said. “All my slides have finally been released and have gone to be reviewed so fingers crossed it comes back in my favour.”

Ms Murray has been to the forefront of protests and marches over the past 15 months, calling for change, greater accountability and more support for women and families impacted by the incident.

She told The Echo recently that confidence in the CervicalCheck screening service had certainly taken a hit over the past 15 months. In terms of restoring that confidence and trust, Ms Murray said more staff and more clinics need to be top of the list.

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