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CervicalCheck to roll out advanced test from March 30

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Simon Harris. Picture: Frank McGrath

Simon Harris. Picture: Frank McGrath

Simon Harris. Picture: Frank McGrath

CervicalCheck is to introduce more advanced lab testing of smears which would reduce the chances of abnormalities being missed.

The Irish Independent has learned the new testing will begin from March 30.

The slides of all women invited for screening will be subjected to a HPV test when they are sent to laboratories.

It will be the primary screening method, providing more accurate results than the current liquid-based cytology system.

Health Minister Simon Harris said: "We have a national goal of eradicating cervical cancer within a generation.

"We will do this through increased vaccination rates and the new HPV test.

"The HSE, the Department of Health and patient advocates have worked so hard to get us all to this point and I want to thank them all for that.

"This new HPV test will prevent and detect cancer. It will help save lives."

It is understood the starting date was shared with stakeholders yesterday as part of a series of regional information sessions.

These sessions are scheduled for the next three weeks.

Most women are expected to be able to have a five-year gap between tests in contrast to the three years which currently applies to younger age groups.

The switch to HPV screening was due to begin in late 2018, but CervicalCheck was unable to meet deadlines after the scandal over the failure to disclose audit results to 221 women erupted.

This led to a major overhaul of the cervical screening programme.

An assessment of HPV screening by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said that five-yearly testing of women aged 25 to 60 would lead to two fewer screening tests over a woman's lifetime.

Some 20pc more pre-cancerous abnormalities would be detected, and 30pc more cervical cancer cases and deaths would be avoided for every screening test carried out, compared with the current screening strategy, according to the Hiqa assessment.

Irish Independent