CANCER screening programmes will be in jeopardy if people cannot accept that false negatives may occur, a leading medical expert has warned.
Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH), Dr Noírín Russell, said if people cannot come to terms with the fact that false negatives occur in all medical screening, the programmes may need to be stopped altogether.
She was speaking after a recent High Court judgment in a CervicalCheck case.
The judgment, in the case of terminally ill Ruth Morrissey, now requires screeners to have “absolute confidence” when deciding if a smear is negative.
Dr Russell explained that no screening test in medicine has the ability to pick up its target 100% of the time.
“This is true for cervical smears, Breastcheck screening, fetal anomaly ultrasounds.
“There will always be false negatives where patients are told their result is normal but something abnormal subsequently turns up.
"Patients must be willing to accept this simple fact - a screening test cannot promise with ‘absolute confidence’ a normal result.