Over the past two weeks, Cancer Care West, based in the Westside, Galway has been offering information, support and counselling to women and families affected by the cervical screening crisis.
This has been offered by their oncology nurses and clinical psychologists. The distress caused by this episode will reverberate for many months and years to come. There are several factors at play — firstly, the realization that the screening tool is not a diagnostic test and therefore some women received false negatives when in fact their smears showed evidence of cervical cancer.
This has been a major shock to people who felt safe when they got a letter telling them that they had a clear smear test.Then there are the group of women and their families who have gone on to develop cancer and who are distraught at the situation they now find themselves in.
Apart from their diagnosis of cancer, the decision not to inform these women of the results of the audit of their previous smears is the most damaging aspect of their experience and one which has cast a harsh light on how these situations are managed. People should be at the centre of the health service and here it is very clear that this was not the case.
Then there are families, mothers, husbands, children, partners, all of whom have been hugely impacted, some of them, because they have been bereaved by the deaths of the people they love.
If you have been affected by this crisis, please call Cancer Care West support centre at 091 540040 from 9am to 5 pm Monday to Friday to speak to one of their oncology nurses or clinical psychologists.
Cancer Care West is an independent cancer charity based in Galway city that offers support, counselling and information to anyone affected by cancer throughout the west of Ireland.
It runs two cancer support centres, one in Galway city and one in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. It also offers residential services to radiotherapy patients who need to receive treatment at Galway University Hospital.
All services are free of charge, confidential and professionally run.