Hiqa to review method used to detect cervical cancer

Some 300 women diagnosed with cervical cancer in Ireland every year, of whom 90 die

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) is due to examine the clinical, financial, ethical and organisational implications of using human papillomavirus (HPV) testing as the main screen test for detecting cervical cancer. File photograph: Getty Images

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) is due to examine the clinical, financial, ethical and organisational implications of using human papillomavirus (HPV) testing as the main screen test for detecting cervical cancer. File photograph: Getty Images

 

The screening method used to detect cervical cancer in Irish women is to be assessed to ensure the most effective strategy is being used to prevent the disease.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) is due to examine the clinical, financial, ethical and organisational implications of using human papillomavirus (HPV) testing as the main screen test for detecting cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cells of the neck of the womb.

In Ireland, about 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, with over 90 women dying of it.

Some 30,000 women die of cervical cancer each year in Europe.

The current cervical check available in Ireland is carried out using a liquid-based cytology. If the test finds low-level abnormalities, the same sample is tested for HPV DNA to find out if the woman should be referred for a colposcopy.

Hiqa says reversing the order of these tests and testing for HPV DNA first could improve the efficiency of the screening process and help detect cancerous and pre-cancerous cell changes.

Sexual contact

HPV is a common virus usually spread by skin-to-skin contact during sexual contact.

Most people will have HPV at some point in their lives, but in most cases it causes no symptoms and is cleared by the body’s immune system.

However, persistent infection can lead to the development of cervical cancer.

Between 50-80 per cent of sexually active women will contract some form of HPV during their life, although only a small proportion will develop cervical cancer.

The five-year survival rate for women with cervical cancer recently increased from 56 per cent to 62 per cent.

However, women aged 25 to 60 are still advised to avail of regular free smear tests every three to five years, depending on their age.

For more information on cervical smear tests or to check when your next test should be conducted, visit cervicalcheck.ie or freephone 1800 45 45 55.