HSE pauses requests from post-hysterectomy women to be removed from cervical screening

Move follows review in Scotland which found 400 women were wrongly told they did not need to be screened

CervicalCheck has advised women who have had a hysterectomy they may need to continue to have screening tests.

CervicalCheck has advised women who have had a hysterectomy they may need to continue to have screening tests.

 

The HSE has paused requests from women who have had hysterectomies to be removed from the cervical cancer screening register after a review in Scotland found 400 women were wrongly told they did not need to be screened.

A small number of the women later developed cervical cancer and one has since died, the Scottish review has established.

The results of the review were disclosed on Thursday to members of the Scottish parliament, where Maree Todd, the public health minister, described what happened as a “serious adverse event”.

The affected women had undergone a subtotal hysterectomy, where the cervix is retained, but had been removed incorrectly from the screening register. 

The HSE said it had no reason to believe the Scottish experience would have implications for Ireland, but would examine the review “as we continue to evaluate best practice across international screening programmes”.

“We will consider any potential implications of the Scottish experience as part of our ongoing drive to improve the quality and safety of our processes.”

Unlike Scotland, Ireland does not automatically remove anyone from the CervicalCheck cervical screening register. Women continue to be invited for screening after a hysterectomy, unless they or their doctors confirm screening is not required.

The HSE said it understood women who have had hysterectomies and have opted out of screening may have concerns. It said more information is available on the CervicalCheck website or its freephone line, 1800454555.

Online information is being updated, along with information for doctors, it said.

While invitations will continue to be issued for screening, post-hysterectomy, CervicalCheck is pausing requests for removal from the register for any hysterectomy “as a precaution”.

CervicalCheck has advised women who have had a hysterectomy they may need to continue to have screening tests if they had a sub-total hysterectomy, or changes in the cells of their cervix were detected before or at the time or surgery, or if the procedure was for treating cervical abnormalities.

In Scotland, the unscreened women are being offered urgent appointments with their doctors.

Ms Todd apologised to the women: “These exclusions from the cervical screening programme should not have happened and I want to apologise to all those affected by this error. I offer my heartfelt apologies in particular to the women who were excluded from the programme who went on to develop cancer, and to their families.”

Known cases date back to 1997 but officials say other women could have been affected before then.