Campaign to boost uptake of cervical screening in older age categories

Campaign to boost uptake of cervical screening in older age categories

Fiona Murphy NSS chief executive said it was likely 300,000 tests were conducted last year. Picture: Leon Farrell

A campaign is being drawn up to increase the uptake of cervical screening in the 50-plus age category and in counties where screening numbers are lowest.

The number of cervical check examinations carried out last year has soared on the figures for the previous two years.

Figures provided in an answer to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael’s TD Colm Burke showed that there were 259,529 from January to September last year.

Fiona Murphy, who is chief executive of the National Screening Service, said that the target for the full 12 months of last year was 280,000 tests but she said: “It is likely that more than 300,000 tests were conducted.” 

In 2020, there were 143,334 tests carried out, while there were 206,315 tests in 2019. 

The lower number in 2020 reflected a pause in testing because of the pandemic in April, May and June of that year.

Ms Murphy said the number presenting for tests last year was 14% higher than expected.

And she said the service is up to date with invites for testing.

HSE CervicalCheck
HSE CervicalCheck

However, figures show that the highest level of uptake is 89% in the 25-29 years age category, with the number decreasing in each age category thereafter.

The uptake in the 50-54 years cohort is 71.8%, and falls to 59.7% in the 60-plus group.

According to the National Screening Service, there were seven counties which exceeded the 80% target for the screening, including Waterford and Carlow.

The lowest take up was in Laois, with a 69% uptake.

Ms Murphy told Mr Burke: “Through the work of our equity strategy, we are continually working to encourage uptake and identify and address gaps in coverage.” 

She said that this year, the focus will be on implementing a “targeted information campaign which aims to increase uptake among women and people with a cervix aged 50 and above, as well as those living in counties where uptake is lowest.” 

She said a campaign took place last year to target migrants through “culturally appropriate, multilingual video messages for migrant people”.

The videos featured healthcare professionals who came to Ireland from other countries and are available in 21 different languages, she said. The videos highlight the importance of screening, she continued.

Mr Burke welcomed the numbers, particularly showing the high level of take up last year. But he said: “The issue that needs to be highlighted is that people from different ethnic cultures may not be getting the message to them and it is important that we cater for all women in those categories.”

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