CervicalCheck work on new model to eliminate the cancer begins in 2022

CervicalCheck work on new model to eliminate the cancer begins in 2022

Dr Nóirín Russell, Cervical Check: "By the end of this year, if you take 2020 and 2021 together, we will have screened the same number of women as any previous two years as if there was never a pandemic or a cyber attack."

CervicalCheck has been operating at 20% above capacity for the past 11 months, and is preparing to help eliminate cervical cancer in Ireland.

Usually, Ireland’s cervical cancer screening service would see around 270,000 women per year. This year, the service had completed around 300,000 screening appointments by the end of October.

November 17 is World Cervical Cancer Elimination Day.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Dr Nóirín Russell, clinical director of CervicalCheck, said the cancer screening service managed to cater for women even amid the difficulties experienced in 2021.

“For the whole year, we’ve been operating at above 20% capacity,” Dr Russell said.

“We’re now back on track and, since late last year, we've been inviting women as soon as they’re eligible.

“Women are also able to look at an eligibility tracker and, if they’re eligible, they’re able to book their test.

“We’re actually after catching up,” she added, explaining that 100,000 women who were offered appointments in 2020 but were unable to attend have since been seen this year.

“By the end of this year, if you take 2020 and 2021 together, we will have screened the same number of women as any previous two years as if there was never a pandemic or a cyber attack.” 

Dr Russell praised the women of Ireland for prioritising screening. She also praised GPs and primary healthcare teams for their flexibility and willingness to continue screening.

“By the end of October, we had around 300,000 smears done,” she said.

“The results are taking six to eight weeks to get back to women.

“Some women do get their results faster, especially HPV-negative women,” she added.

Every year in Ireland about 300 people get cervical cancer and 90 women die from it.

Almost 150 of these women diagnosed with cervical cancer are diagnosed in screening.

In women aged 25 to 39 years, cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death due to cancer.

New model

In January 2022, the National Screening Service; National Immunisation Office (NIO); National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP); and National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) will begin working with academics in Australia to develop a model to work towards cervical cancer elimination in Ireland.

This will involve using Irish data — for example, on screening uptake and HPV vaccine uptake — to tailor the model for Ireland’s population and allow Ireland to set a target date for elimination of cervical cancer.

The model will give the HSE pointers on how to work towards elimination. This will include improving uptake of cervical screening and HPV vaccination. It will also advise on how both programmes can adapt and evolve to support the earliest elimination target possible.

Dr Russell said the screening programme is in a strong position to take on this challenge.

“Thanks to the efforts of our sample takers and the ongoing high levels of attendance by women invited for cervical screening, CervicalCheck is now back on track after the short pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This, coupled with continued high uptake of the HPV vaccine, means we are perfectly placed to announce our commitment to this elimination strategy.

“Making cervical cancer a rare disease is an exciting goal as this terrible disease has such a devastating impact on women and their families.

“While we work on this very important goal, we would still encourage all those invited to attend their cervical screening appointment, it is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer.”

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