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Women encouraged to avail of free smear tests in 2014

European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week takes place from January 19 to 25.

Cervical smear results
Cervical smear results
Image: PA Story HEALTH Cervical.

WOMEN ARE BEING encouraged to avail of a free smear test this year, as we mark European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week from January 19 to 25.

Dr Caitriona Henchion, Medical Director of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), said at the launch of the Pearl of Wisdom Campaign that “women can stop cervical cancer before it starts by availing of a free smear test in 2014″.

European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week promotes the message that cervical cancer can be prevented through regular smear tests. Health specialists are urging women between the ages of 25 and 60 to avail of a free smear test from a GP or family planning clinic of their choice through the CervicalCheck programme.

The campaign is being promoted by the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) with the support of national broadcaster Maura Derrane and CervicalCheck – the National Cervical Screening Programme.

Dr Henchion said that cervical cancer takes a long time to develop and often has no symptoms, “but the good news is that it can be prevented”.

A smear test does this by ensuring that any abnormalities in the cervix are detected and treated early. Having a smear test has never been easier. It only takes a few minutes, it’s free, and it really could save your life.

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An IFPA review of the cervical screening programme at its Dublin city centre clinic from 2008 to 2012 showed that women over 45 are less likely to go for smear tests than women under 45.

Smear tests are for all women aged 25 to 60. Dr Henchion said that though the IFPA study found that abnormal results were less common in women aged 45 to 60, a significant number were still detected.

This shows that as women age, they are still at risk of developing cervical cancer, and should continue to go for regular smear tests until the age of 60.

The Pearl of Wisdom is the international emblem of cervical cancer prevention and, to promote awareness of the disease, the IFPA has distributed 20,000 Pearl of Wisdom pins and information leaflets to women across the country through participating pharmacists, occupational health nurses, and other health promotion networks, including the Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Centres and various community organisations.

Each year, approximately 300 women are newly diagnosed with cervical cancer and over 90 lives are lost.

Well-organised screening programmes, such as CervicalCheck, have proven effective in reducing the death rate of cervical cancer by 80 per cent, through early detection and prevention.

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