Older women not taking smear test

 

Women aged 45 and over are less likely to attend for regular smear tests than younger women, the Irish Family Planning Association has said.

Women aged 25 to 60 are entitled to free cervical smear tests as part of CervicalCheck, the National Cervical Screening Programme. But statistics show only 60 per cent of women aged 45-plus attend while overall attendance is 82 per cent.

The smear test checks for cervical cancer, which is caused by persistent infection with high-risk types of the human papilloma virus. Some 50 to 80 per cent of sexually active women contract some form of the virus at least once in their life. Only a small proportion develop cervical cancer.

Women aged between 25 and 45 should have a smear test every three years and those over 45 should have one every five years, provided they have not returned abnormal tests in the past.

Every woman who has ever been sexually active requires regular smear tests. Though the immune system can clear the virus over time, the length of time between acquiring the virus and developing cervical cancer varies widely, Dr Caitríona Henchion, medical director of the association, said.

Dr Henchion said at the launch of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, which runs until January 26th and aims to encourage women to have the free test, that the association was putting a particular focus on women in the 45-plus age bracket.