The Marie Keating Foundation launched its annual awareness campaign this year by hosting a cervical cancer information morning at recently in partnership with the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI). The free information morning saw over 70 women working in the area of women’s health come together to hear a number of speakers including Dr Grainne Flannelly, clinical director of CervicalCheck discuss the success of the national cervical cancer screening programme, now in its fifth year. Dr Brenda Corcoran, consultant in public health medicine with the HSE also reviewed the current take-up of the vaccination programme among teenage girls.
The most recent figures from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI), show that approximately 220 women are diagnosed annually with the disease with almost 80 each year. The aim of the campaign is to promote early detection and to dispel some of the myths which still exist about cervical cancer in Ireland. Throughout the month of May, the Foundation’s nurses were travelling around Ireland in Mobile Information Units giving free advice with a particular focus on cervical cancer. The Foundation has worked over the last number of years to raise awareness of this disease and has campaigned tirelessly for the introduction of a vaccination programme for teenage girls, in line with best practice in other European countries.
Cervical Cancer is the second most common female cancer in Europe. A cervical smear test can detect pre-cancerous changes in the cervix which is completely curable. However, if left untreated, these cells may develop into cervical cancer. Pre-cancerous cell changes do not usually have any symptoms, which is why it is so important to have regular smear tests. To learn more about cervical screening, log onto www.cervicalcheck.ie or call 1800 45 45 55.
All school girls in first year of second level school now get a free vaccine to help prevent cervical cancer. Figures show an uptake rate of 82% among first year students with a lower uptake rate for sixth year students in line with other European countries.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Lillian McGovern, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation said they were delighted that over 900,000 women have availed of the CervicalCheck programme since 2008.
“However, despite a very clear message being given to women on the importance of regular smears, and vaccination for young girls, there is still a lack of awareness among women on their significance and importance in eliminating this as a life threatening illness.
“Over one in four women have still not availed of their free CervicalCheck smear test, while women aged over 50 are less likely to. The myth still exists that cervical cancer cannot be prevented, where in fact, we know that having the simple smear test regularly can detect abnormal cervical cells and has greatly reduced deaths across Europe. We also know that certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking has a direct link to cervical cancer and for that reason, our nurses are working tirelessly in their work with women’s groups to get this message across,” said Ms McGovern.