The RCPI Faculty of Pathology says cervical screening remains the most reliable and effective way of preventing and detecting early cancers. Screening that is done through a national, organised screening service, where regular smears are performed as part of a screening cycle, has helped to reduce the rate of cervical cancer in Ireland.
The cervical smear is not 100% accurate but when done to a high standard it significantly reduces the number of women who die each year from cervical cancer. Screening has also identified pre-cancerous cells which has helped to reduce the treatment, and improve the outcome for these women.
In 2008, a decision was taken to tender for screening cytology (Cervical smear test analysis supervised by Specialist Pathologists) which resulted in this service, previously undertaken in laboratories in hospitals in Ireland, being largely delivered by laboratories in the USA. One consequence of this decision is that the Faculty of Pathology does not have access to information from these laboratories and is not in a position to comment directly on this at this time.
The Faculty understands that a decision in principle to move to primary HPV screening has been taken for potential implementation in late 2018. We welcome and support this and we will assist in its implementation. It is anticipated that this will be used in conjunction with cervical cytology to improve the future effectiveness of screening. These changes have been recommended by HIQA.
The Faculty of Pathology will fully participate in, and make submissions to any Government or statutory enquiry, and will contribute to initiatives that improve all cancer screening programmes.