Freephone information line: 1800 45 45 55

CervicalCheck Update - Information for women

We are committed to protecting women’s health and to always sharing information about a person’s care with them. Our standards fell far short of this during the CervicalCheck audit and for that we are deeply sorry.

Women in Ireland have been understandably worried following the serious failings in the CervicalCheck audit.

We want to acknowledge this breach of trust and to urge women in Ireland to continue to take part in cervical screening, which is a life-saving public health measure.

We are regularly updating this website with information related to the CervicalCheck audit.

If you have a specific query, the information further below may answer your questions.

If your question is not answered by the information below, you can email us at info@cervicalcheck.ie or make a request for a call back here. You can also call us on Freephone 1800 45 45 55 (+353 21 4217612 from outside Ireland).

Throughout May, the HSE Senior Incident Management Team (SIMT) appointed to respond to this issue published CervicalCheck Daily Reports to provide updates. Since June, updates on the CervicalCheck audit have been published on this website.  

We continue to update this website with key information regarding the CervicalCheck audit for women and healthcare professionals

Here we have information which may answer some of your questions:

What has happened to date

We carried out an audit of women who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer over the last 10 years. The audit happened after their cancer was diagnosed and the purpose was to evaluate the quality of the screening programme.

Not all of these women were told about the audit. The audit initially found that 209 women could have been provided with a different result and recommended earlier follow-up following their screening test.

A further 12 women have since been identified. Their screening test could also have provided a different result and recommended earlier follow-up.

We did not withhold information that delayed a diagnosis of cancer for any woman.

It is clear that there has been a very serious breakdown in communicating to the women concerned. They should have been told that this audit was happening and of the outcomes of the audit, but in many cases they were not. We are now doing this.

You can find out more information about the audit in this statement.

Contact with women directly affected

We have contacted most of the 221 women affected.

To date, we have either met with or arranged meetings with 208 of the initial 209 women affected or their families. The remaining woman lives outside the country and extensive efforts have been made to contact her.

We are also contacting the 12 additional women recently identified as also affected.

Women diagnosed with cancer but not notified to CervicalCheck

We are working with the National Cancer Registry and the Department of Health to identify any other women who had cervical cancer since 2008, who may also have had a CervicalCheck test, and should be included in the audit.

Repeat smear tests

If you have had normal smear test results, you do not need a repeat screening test.

We have provided information to GPs. If you are concerned, you can get a free consultation with your GP. If your GP is concerned after your consultation, you can get a free smear test.

If you have had a smear test within the last 3 months

If you have had a recent cervical screening you must wait at least 3 months before being tested again. This is to allow cells to grow back and to get the best samples. If you want to know your most recent smear test results, your GP will be able to give you this information.

If you have normal smear test results

Women who have had normal screening results do not need a repeat smear test. 

If you are still concerned or are experiencing any symptoms you should talk to your GP. They can organise a repeat test for you. The screening and consultation will be free of charge.

When to see your GP

If you have symptoms

Smear tests are for women who do not have symptoms. Visit your GP if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • vaginal bleeding in between periods
  • abnormal discharge
  • pelvic pain

If you do not have symptoms but are concerned

If you are concerned, you can get a free consultation with your GP. If your GP is concerned after your consultation, you can get a free smear test.

You must wait at least 3 months from your last smear before being tested again. This is to allow cells to grow back and to get the best samples.

If you have cervical cancer

You may have been included in this audit if you have been diagnosed with cervical cancer since 2008.

If you have queries about your case, you can talk to your oncology clinic or team.

You can also call the CervicalCheck Freephone line 1800 45 45 55. We will arrange for a callback to let you know if you are affected. 

We are working with the National Cancer Registry. This is to see if any other women who have cervical cancer should be part of the audit of historical screening tests. We will review these if needed.

Colposcopy patients

If you are currently in the care of colposcopy, discuss your screening needs with your colposcopist or hospital doctor.

Hysterectomy patients

If you have had a radical hysterectomy, you do not need to get a smear test.

If you have had a partial hysterectomy, you should get a smear test.

Register for a smear test here.

Your GP can tell you what type of hysterectomy you have had and whether you need a smear test.

Visit your GP if you are concerned or experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • irregular vaginal bleeding
  • abnormal discharge
  • pelvic pain

Pregnancy and smear tests

If you are pregnant and are due a smear test, you should delay having it until 3 months after you give birth. You can call the CervicalCheck freephone number to defer your routine smear test.

If your last result was not normal and you are pregnant, the result will not affect your pregnancy. If you are due to have a repeat smear test you should discuss this with your GP or nurse.

If you are due to attend colposcopy, you should attend your appointment. You can discuss this with your GP or nurse.

A not normal smear test result has no effect on your pregnancy. You may have slight bleeding after having a smear test in pregnancy. A smear test will not increase the risk of miscarriage.

Scheduled smear tests

If you already are due a smear test, you should still attend it as planned.

Regular cervical screening is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of cervical cancer. It is very important to attend and keep up to date with your tests. You can check exactly when your next free cervical screening is due here.

Reliability of screening

All women should avail of routine smear checks to protect their health.

We know that cervical screening in Ireland is safe and effective. Over 3 million smear tests have been carried out in Ireland since 2008. Over 50,000 cases of pre-cancer and cancer have been detected and treated.

But, like most clinical tests and processes, they have a margin of error.

No screening programme is 100% effective.

This is the case in all countries. This is why women are called for screening at regular intervals. This kind of routine screening is the best way to be assured of cervical health.  

There is no evidence to suggest the clinical elements of our screening programme are faulty. The quality of smear-taking by doctors and nurses is not in question. All the labs we use have passed all quality control tests. They are operating to the required standards.

The labs we use

Tests are sent to one of three laboratories. Two of them are in Ireland - MedLab Pathology Ltd, Dublin and the Coombe Women and Infant’s Hospital, Dublin. One of them is in the US - Quest Diagnostics Inc, Teterboro, New Jersey, USA.

We are assured that all the labs we use are operating to the required standard. They are certified by the relevant national authorities. All three labs meet our quality assurance standards.

Two experts examine every test.

We have published data from the 3 labs we currently use on the HSE website. This shows that these labs are performing as they should compared to international norms, and to each other.

Why we use a lab in the US

There are not enough quality-assured labs available in Ireland to meet the need of the screening programme.

New HPV test

Our current smear tests examine a sample of the cells on the cervix under a microscope. Two different people check for any abnormalities that can be seen.

Later this year, we are moving to a new type of smear test, where we will also test for the presence of HPV virus. This will be more accurate than the current smear test. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that is extremely common.

Getting the HPV vaccine and attending for smear tests when called are the best ways to protect women and girls against cervical cancer.

This new screening process will be the same for you. You will visit your smear-taker, and the sample will be collected in the same way. The testing for HPV will offer an additional level of accuracy and reassurance.

Open disclosure (sharing information)

The HSE supports open disclosure. Information should always be shared with patients relating to their care. On this occasion our actions fell far short of our values of care and compassion. This is not acceptable to us and we are committed to learning from this and rebuilding trust and confidence in the cervical screening programme.

The Government has indicated it will establish a statutory investigation into these matters. We will comply fully with this so that we can understand why this happened and how we can improve.

How to contact us to arrange a telephone consultation

We have received a large amount of calls in recent weeks. This means it may take some time to reply to all calls.

We are working hard to respond to all callers individually. Doctors and nurses are making calls. Where needed, they will give detailed telephone consultations.

We are prioritising women with specific clinical queries or a history of cervical cancer.

These calls can take some time. This is to ensure that your screening history and any questions you have are answered. Around 5,000 telephone consultations with a health professional have now taken place

To arrange a callback, you can either:

or

  • call us on Freephone 1800 45 45 55 (+353 21 4217612 if calling from outside Ireland) and an advisor will take your details. This helpline is open from Monday to Sunday, 9 am to 6 pm. 

If you have already spoken to an operator or emailed us your details have been recorded and we will call you back as soon as possible.

Other information

CervicalCheck daily reports can be found here

Information for healthcare professionals from CervicalCheck can be found here

Check when your next smear test is due

 





Is cuid den tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála é CervicalCheck
Bosca Oifig Phoist 161, Luimneach
Saorghlao 1800 45 45 55
CervicalCheck is part of the National Cancer Screening Service
PO Box 161 Limerick
Freephone 1800 45 45 55

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Is cuid den Rannóg Sláinte agus Folláine i bhFeidhmeannacht na Seirbhíse Sláinte í an tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála. Cuimsíonn sí BreastCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Cíoch, CervicalCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Ceirbheacs, BowelScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Putóige agus Diabetic RetinaScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Reitiní do Dhiaibéitigh.

The National Screening Service is part of the Health and Wellbeing Division of the Health Service Executive. It encompasses BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme, CervicalCheck – The National Cervical Screening Programme, BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme and Diabetic RetinaScreen – The National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme.