Tuesday 21 May 2019

More victims of cancer test scandal set to be found


Dr Gabriel Scally. Picture: Frank McGrath
Dr Gabriel Scally. Picture: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

More women who were excluded by CervicalCheck from its internal investigations are expected to be found to have developed cancer after getting wrong test results, it emerged yesterday.

There are now serious concerns that CervicalCheck did not fully re-examine the cases of all the women it was notified developed the disease.

CervicalCheck is believed to have eliminated women whose date of cancer diagnosis was less than 18 months since their last test.

Dr Gabriel Scally, who investigated the CervicalCheck scandal, described the criteria used by CervicalCheck to do a look-back audit of test results of women with cancer as "flawed".

He was appearing before the Oireachtas Health Committee with Dr Karin Denton, a UK specialist in cervical screening who provided technical expertise to his review.

So far, CervicalCheck has found 221 women, 20 of whom are dead, were diagnosed with cervical cancer after getting test results which were incorrectly read.

If their abnormalities had been picked up, the women would have received treatment earlier.

Emma Mhic Mhathúna, who was buried yesterday, received two wrong test results which were wrongly read before she was diagnosed with cancer in 2016.

Commenting on the cut-off point, Dr Denton said: "I feel disquiet about that because cancer can progress quite a lot over 18 months."

Dr Scally said they were not aware of a scientific basis for imposing a cut-off before 18 months.

He described the available CervicalCheck criteria for doing the look-back audit of test results of women with cancer as " scanty".

He said "undoubtedly" more women who developed cancer will be found to have received incorrect test results when the external review of up to 1,800 cases is complete.

This is being carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Dr Scally also said he could not rule out that Irish women's tests which were outsourced to a Texas laboratory were sent to other labs without the knowledge of CervicalCheck.

He is to do a further probe of how tests from the CPL lab in Texas were sent for screening to Las Vegas and other cities.

However, he said some of these other labs have now closed down.

"We will be pursuing it rigorously," he said.

It also emerged that a slide could be screened first in one lab while the second screen was carried out in another.

The original contracts for the labs dating back a decade have been shredded, they told the committee. "They were shredded in an unusual exhibition of efficiency," he said.

Dr Scally also revealed for the first time that some women who received a clear test later returned to their GP with symptoms of cervical cancer.

But a lack of training by GPs meant a number of women were told the symptoms were not a cause of worry because their last test was clear.

"Training is voluntary but should be mandatory," he said.

Health Minister Simon Harris, who met Dr Scally yesterday, asked him to provide an independent review of the cervical screening overhaul implementation plan recommended in his report.

Mr Harris also confirmed Dr Scally will be doing further work on screening labs.

Irish Independent

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