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Medical card holders 50% more likely to have abnormal smear test result

The Dublin Well Woman Centre is now calling for extra efforts to ensure poorer women continue to access screening under the National Cervical Screening Programme.

Image: Microscope image via Shutterstock

AN ANALYSIS OF smear tests results taken by the Dublin Well Woman Centre have shown that a woman with a medical card is 50 per cent more likely to need to be referred on for further investigation.

The centre is now calling for extra efforts to ensure poorer women continue to access screening under the National Cervical Screening Programme, CervicalCheck.

The Well Woman Centre takes nearly 9,000 cervical smear tests annually across its three Dublin clinics in Coolock, Pembroke Road and Liffey Street. Today the centre expressed concern over the number of women who need to be referred to hospital for a colposcopy examination following an abnormal smear result. The figures show that medical card-holders attending the Well Woman clinic in Coolock for a smear test are more likely to require a colposcopy than private patients across the organisation’s three Dublin clinics.

“The aim of regular cervical smear testing is to pick up changes to the cervix before they become cancerous, allowing doctors to intervene and treat as early as possible,” said Alison Begas, Chief Executive of the centre. “CervicalCheck must continue to target its resources in a way that ensures that those women most at risk are recruited to the screening programme.”

The Well Woman Centre said any woman, regardless of where she lives, simply needs to call and make and appointment with a smear-taker of her choice.

Medical Director at the centre, Dr Shirley McQuade said the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes cervical cell abnormalities, is more prevalent in women who are smokers. It is also more prevalent across groups who experience first sexual intercourse at an early age.

“From our experience at The Dublin Well Woman Centre, both of these are factors across low income groups,” she said. “Poorer immunity, resulting from poor diet, may also be a contributing factor to low resistance to HPV. Good access to screening is the best and most effective safety net for women at risk from developing cervical cancer.”

Read: Women over 45 ‘less likely to have smear tests’>

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