Emma Mhic Mhathúna reveals cancer has spread to her brain

‘I don’t like the uncertainty . . . how quick it’s going . . . I just want my children taken care of’

Emma Mhic Mhathúna with solicitor Cian O’Carroll after the settlement announcement of a High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

Emma Mhic Mhathúna with solicitor Cian O’Carroll after the settlement announcement of a High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts


Emma Mhic Mhathúna, one of the women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy, has revealed that her cancer has spread to her brain.

The mother of five. who was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year. is one of the now 221 women with cervical cancer found to have received incorrect smear tests during a clinical audit of past tests by the CervicalCheck screening programme after their cancer diagnoses.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna, who lives in Co Kerry with her children, had previously been told her cancer had spread to both lungs and her spine.

She posted on Facebook on Wednesday night that the cancer had also spread to her brain.

“I found out today the cancer had spread to my brain,” she wrote. “I’m not scared, just heartbroken. I love my life, my children and all of you, my new found friends.”

Speaking on Today with Miriam O’Callaghan show on Thursday, Ms Mhic Mhathúna explained how the cancer had spread to the left side of her brain and that her tumours had become “significantly bigger”.

The disease is now “in the left side of my brain so the symptoms will be seizures, loss of speech, concentration, losing of words,” she said on a phone call from the hospital where she was awaiting further tests.

She said she was not scared of dying because she had her faith but that she was struggling with the uncertainty and the “unpredictability” of the disease.

“I don’t like how quick it’s going. It’s just I have no control over it, in some ways I wish it was all over.”

Ms Mhic Mhathúna is unable to take the medication Vicky Phelan has benefited from as she suffers from Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory bowel disease) but said she is investigating other clinical trial options.

She added that despite having great support from friends and family she sometimes feels isolated.

“When you’re in a cancer diagnosis people don’t understand you, they think they’re doing you a favour by telling you you’re going to be all right.”

She explained she tries to stay positive around her children but admitted to breaking down when she’s alone.

“It’s just so wrong. I hope they make changes in the tests, that this doesn’t happen to other women because I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

“The €7.5 million doesn’t make any different to me,” she said, referring to last week’s legal settlement of her case.

“I wasn’t taking any nonsense because I wanted my children taken care of.”

Ms Mhic Mhathúna and her five children settled their legal action over the CervicalCheck controversy last week for €7.5 million.

The family had sued the HSE, US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Incorporated and the National Maternity Hospital, although the case against the National Maternity Hospital was struck out. Quest Diagnostics admitted misreading her two cervical smear slides in 2010 and 2013.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna had three cervical smear tests in 2010, 2011 and 2013 that were incorrectly reported on. The 2011 result was a false negative, while the 2010 and 2013 slides were both misread and came back as negative.

If the 2010 and 2013 slides had been read correctly, Ms Mhic Mhathúna should have got a mandatory colposcopy.

In 2016, Ms Mhic Mhathúna was sent for a colposcopy examination and a biopsy following another smear test.

She was subsequently diagnosed as having invasive cancer cells and underwent treatment between October and December 2016.

In April and May of this year she was told she had suffered a reoccurrence of her cervical cancer and that her prognosis was terminal.