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The Importance of Cervical Checks

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

This is European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and we have Dr Catriona Henchion, Medical Director with the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) in to talk about the Cervical Check programme.

. The IFPA are promoting the importance of regular smear tests. Pearls of Wisdom badges being handed out free at all IFPA centers around the country and to women's groups at local level.

Aim:-
1. The aim is to promote better awareness of all aspects of cervical cancer and highlight the importance of regular smear tests.
2. Encourage all women between the ages of 25 to 64 to participate in the programme by having regular smear tests.

Free smear tests are available throughout Ireland to women between the ages of 25 and 60 (If it's clear up to 60 then it is not necessary to be called until you are 64; but if it's not been consistently clear you will be called up to age 64) through the national cervical cancer screening programme.

European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week was launched on Sunday and it takes place from 18th to 24th January.

Ireland has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in Western Europe! The disease has continued to rise in the past few years. This is not the case in other countries - this is possibly because we haven't had a screening programme in this country.

A well organised screening programme in other countries has proven to reduce the incidence by 80 per cent.

Did you know?
. Approximately 90 women die from cervical cancer here each year.
. Approx 250 women are newly diagnosed.
. Regular screening can help prevent the development of the disease.
. Women in Ireland can avail of the National Cervical Cancer Screening Programme - Cervical Check - and we encourage all women between 25 and 64 to participate in the programme by having regular smears.

What is a smear test?
It's a method of examining stained cells in the cervix (neck of the womb) for early diagnosis of uterine cancer.
How is a smear test carried out?
It's carried out by a doctor or nurse trained in taking the test. You will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist down and lie on the bed. You will be asked to draw your feet up towards your bottom, allow your knees to drop open, ankles together - this will give clear access to the tester who will insert a lubricated instrument called a speculum into the vagina to hold it open. It is necessary for you to relax during this examination. It may be a bit uncomfortable. An instrument like a small bottle brush is inserted into the vagina and it is used to gently scrape cells from around the cervix, (neck of the womb). This is then sealed in a tube and sent to a lab for analysis.

This test should take no more than a few minutes. Your tester will advise you as to when and how you will receive the results.

What happens next?
You will receive your results; possibly by post. The letter will tell you what to do next. If no changes are found, you will be reminded when your next test is due. If there are changes detected, what happens next will depend on the severity of the changes and you will be seen by a gynecologist.
On some occasions, a second smear may be needed if the first one is not conclusive for some reason - insufficient cells on the slide, blood or semen clouding the view, etc.,

What happens if I need further treatment?
Your gynecologist will advise you. You may need to be examined closer and in more detail with a microscope like device known as a colposcope. This is a painless examination carried out in a similar way to the smear test.
It is important to realise that an abnormal smear does not necessarily mean you have cancer; The test is an early warning system to detect and remove any cells that could possibly lead to cervical cancer. This is a very important message to convey.
When is the best time to have a smear test?
1. If you have been sexually active from the age of 25 should have regular smear tests.
2. If your smear test is negative you will be called back every three years up to the age of 45 and then every five years after that.
3. Smear tests are recommended for women up to 65 years of age.
4. Smear tests should be carried out between days 12 to 20 of your menstrual cycle. Day 1 is the first day of the menstrual period.
More Info
. The pearls of wisdom are being distributed free of charge.
. They will be available in IFPA clinics and through various women's groups at local level.
. If viewers want to get pearls, they can contact the IFPA directly.
. (Tel: 01-806944, Email: post@ifpa.ie).

. Free smear tests are available to women throughout Ireland (aged between 25 and 60) through the National Cervical Cancer Screening Programme.
. The Programme's website has a full list of clinics and GPs where smear tests are available - broken down on a county-by-county basis - at http://www.cervicalcheck.ie/screening_locations/find_a_smeartaker.494.stsearch.html.

Also, for more info on Cervical Cancer, please call - The National Cancer Helpline: Freefone 1800 200 700 (Open Mon to Thurs 9.00am to 7.00pm and Fri 9.00am to 5.00pm.

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