Statement from the Minister for Health and Children regarding the Cervical Screening Problem in the North Western Health Board
The Minister for Health and Children, Mr Brian Cowen T.D., has requested as a matter of urgency a report from the health boards and voluntary hospitals on the use of the private laboratory concerned to report cervical smear tests in order to establish the extent of the problem and facilitate appropriate action in the identification of any abnormalities which may have been missed . In addition the laboratory concerned has been asked to provide a list of all clients to whom cervical smear test results have been provided.
On receipt of this information the Minister will assess the situation but where the laboratory has been used a review of the cervical smear test results will be required and appropriate action will be taken to follow up any missed abnormalities.
The Minister has also referred the matter to the Expert Advisory Group on Cervical Screening for consideration of the wider implications.
The Minister regrets the concern which this issue will cause women. He stressed that regular cervical screening at minimum intervals of 5 years is the best method available to detect changes in the cells of the cervix.
As with all screening tests there is a chance that some abnormalities may not be detected. In addition it takes some 10-15 years for cervical cancer to develop. That is why regular cervical smears are recommended at minimum intervals of 5 years.
The Minister stressed that it is important for women to understand and be reassured that an abnormal smear result does not mean that the woman has cancer.
The Minister notes that tests in question relate to the period between August and December 1997. The Minister wishes to assure women that he is closely monitoring the situation. On receipt of the reports from the health boards which have been requested as a matter of urgency, the Minister will assess the situation and take whatever action is required.