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Highest percentage of women ever screened by CervicalCheck - Press Release (29/09/2017)

In 2016, CervicalCheck - The National Cervical Screening Programme recorded the highest coverage achieved since the programme began in 2008. According to the programme’s latest report for 2015-2016, CervicalCheck has screened 79.7% of the target population of almost 1.2 million eligible women, aged 25 to 60 in the last five years.

Professor Gráinne Flannelly, Clinical Director of CervicalCheck, stated that “CervicalCheck has always strived to provide a cervical screening programme which is comparable to the best to be found in the world and in the course of its first eight years CervicalCheck has identified and treated more than 50,000 women with precancerous abnormalities, thereby considerably reducing their risk of developing cervical cancer”.

Although the programme has screened almost 80% of women in the target population, a significant proportion of eligible women are still not up to date cervical screening. Each year in Ireland, almost 300 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer and almost 90 women die from the disease. The screening programme is targeted at women who have no symptoms and aims to detect abnormal changes in the cervix before they become cancerous, when treatment helps to prevent cancers developing.

Professor Flannelly advised women that “a cervical screening test is free, only takes minutes and should be a normal part of a woman’s routine. In addition, it is important to highlight that regular cervical screening is a woman’s best chance at reducing her risk of developing cervical cancer. Women can check when their next test is due by checking online at Cervical cancer affects women of all ages and I would urge in particular that women over 50 attend their CervicalCheck appointment. We have identified that over one in four women in the 50 to 60 year old cohort have not participated in the programme in the last five years. There might be a perception that this is a young woman’s issue, but women over 50 are still very much at risk.”

Minister for Health, Simon Harris welcomes the report and said “since free nationwide screening began in 2008, CervicalCheck has had a very positive impact on the detection of precancerous cervical cell changes.” He added that “the number of screenings and percentage coverage in 2016 is hugely encouraging, emphasising that the detection and treatment of precancerous cells reduces the risk of developing cervical cancer.”

The programme has, in recent years, used HPV reflex testing to better select the number of women who require referral to colposcopy over time. Research has shown that the use of HPV testing as the primary screening tool, can further improve the detection of precancerous changes, with a real potential for a reduction in the number of cervical cancers. Charles O’Hanlon, Head of Screening at the National Screening Service said that, “In line with the recent HIQA Health Technology Assessment (HTA), we hope to soon introduce the use of HPV testing as the primary cervical screening tool. This would offer the same effectiveness while enabling a reduction in the number of times a woman will be required to attend for screening in her lifetime”.

The programme’s latest report shows that 90% of the 263,481 women with a satisfactory screening test received a normal result.  Within the same period, 17,909 women attended colposcopy for the first time, an increase of 1,360 in comparison to the previous year, and 7,131 treatments were carried out, thereby reducing the risk of developing cervical cancer.

CervicalCheck have over 4,500 registered GPs, doctors and nurses who carry out cervical screening tests in more than 1,400 locations nationwide.

Women are encouraged to take up the free health check when invited and should check that their details are correct and on the register by calling Freephone 1800 45 45 55 or by using the online facility on  Women can also check when they are due their next screening appointment on the website.

The CervicalCheck Programme Report 2015-2016 can be viewed here.


For further information: Noreen Turley, Communications and Information Manager, National Screening Service. Tel: 01 8659300 Email:


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