Irish women are being reminded of the importance of undergoing screening for cervical cancer - a disease that kills thousands of women elsewhere in Europe who do not have access to the high-quality screening that is available here.
This week is European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and in Ireland, the event is being highlighted by the Pearl of Wisdom campaign, which urges women to ‘share their wisdom' and let the females in their lives know about the importance of regular smear tests.
Cervical cancer refers to cancer of the cervix, which is the neck of the womb. The disease normally develops over time, starting off with early abnormal ‘pre-cancerous' changes to the cells in the cervix. These changes occur gradually, often over a period of 10-15 years, and in some cases, they eventually become cancerous.
However these early ‘pre-cancerous' changes can be detected by a smear test. If detected, the cells can be destroyed before they turn into cancerous cells. It is estimated that smear tests can detect up to 90% of potential cervical cancers.
Every year in Ireland, around 300 women are newly diagnosed with the disease and some 90 women die as a result. However, Ireland's cervical cancer screening programme, CervicalCheck, has the potential to reduce this figure. Since its launch in 2008, it has provided over two million smear tests.
"Almost 30,000 women in Europe die from cervical cancer every year because they don't have access to high quality screening programmes. Through CervicalCheck, Ireland has one of the best cervical screening programmes in the world. This week, I urge those women in Ireland aged 25 to 60 who have not yet availed of their free smear tests to do so," commented Dr Philip Davies, director general of the European Cervical Cancer Association.
According to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), which supports the Pearl of Wisdom campaign, 76% of eligible women have so far availed of CervicalCheck screening, but it would like to see this figure rise even more.
"This week we are calling on these women to ‘share the wisdom' by encouraging their female friends, relatives and colleagues to avail of free smear tests. Cervical cancer is one of the main cancers affecting women in Ireland, with about 300 diagnoses each year. But the good news is that it can be prevented through regular screening," commented IFPA medical director, Dr Caitriona Henchion.
The IFPA reminded all eligible women that they can choose where to have their smear test, it only takes a few minutes and is free of charge.
For more information on CervicalCheck, click here