75 per cent of eligible Galway women availed of cervical screening

Three out of four Galway women eligible for free cervical cancer screening availed of the potentially life saving service in 2014/2015, according to a new report. The county was one in which CervicalCheck - The National Cervical Screening Programme reported a high uptake rate (75 per cent ) among its target population of women aged 25 to 60 years. The objective of the programme for coverage over five years remains at 80 per cent.

While more women than ever are availing of free cervical screening, rates are uneven across counties and ages. The number of women screened nationally as part of the programme is at its highest since it began in 2008, however, women are less likely to attend for cervical screening in some counties. These include Clare, Kilkenny, Laois, Monaghan, Offaly and Roscommon. Women over the age of 50 are less likely than younger women to avail of this service.

Dr Grainne Flannelly, the clinical director of CervicalCheck, stated the report highlights how CervicalCheck is going from strength to strength with almost 79 per cent of the 1.2 million eligible women availing of cervical screening. “However, we want to increase this even further to 80 per cent, especially in counties where uptake is lower and among older women.”

She outlined that cervical cancer takes a long time to develop and often has no symptoms, which is why regular screening is crucial. “We urge all women aged 25 to 60 to arrange their first smear test if they’ve never done so, or to check when their next free smear test is due - it’s free, it only takes a few minutes and it could save your life.

The CervicalCheck Programme Report 2014/15 shows that cervical screening coverage overall increased during this period from 77 per cent to 78.7 per cent. A total of 281,928 women were screened, most of whom (83 per cent ) were aged 25 to 49 years. Thirteen per cent were aged between 50 and 60 years. The vast majority (90 per cent ) of screening results were normal, 8.2 per cent of tests showed low-grade abnormalities while 1.7 per cent had high-grade abnormalities.

A total of 16,549 women were referred to the colposcopy services [where examinations of the cervix, vagina and vulva are carried out for signs of disease] for investigation and treatment. In all 6,560 treatments were carried out for changes that otherwise would not have been detected, reducing the risk of cervical cancer by 90 per cent for those women.

Women were referred to the colposcopy service either on the basis of an abnormal smear test or for clinical reasons, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or suspicion of an anatomical abnormality of the cervix.

The report also shows that waiting time targets for colposcopy were exceeded for all categories of referral. In addition, the report highlights further improvements in CervicalCheck’s performance as a result of the commencement of HPV testing for women with low-grade abnormalities in May 2015.

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