Newest smear test 'could save many more women from cancer'
The introduction of more advanced smear testing has the potential to spare women in Ireland from going on to develop cervical cancer or dying of the disease, an international expert has said.
Australian scientist Prof Ian Frazer said if each woman's smears were tested in labs for the HPV virus, along with the existing, conventional form of screening, more abnormalities would be picked up and prevent women from developing cervical cancer.
The Government has promised HPV testing would start in October, but has been delayed.
Prof Frazer, who created the HPV vaccine which has been offered to schoolgirls in Ireland since 2010, was speaking at the Royal College of Physicians. The CervicalCheck scandal has led to a fall-off in trust in the screening programme.
He said Australia brought in HPV testing of smears last October. A three-year pilot which preceded it, screening smears for HPV virus and using conventional testing, showed no woman developed cancer.
"If a test is negative for the HPV virus it means the woman is not infected," explained Prof Frazer. She is then asked to return for her next routine test in five years. If the smear test shows the woman has HPV, it is further screened for abnormalities in the conventional way.
If it tests negative for abnormalities, the woman is asked back for another test in a year.
"Cancers are all caused by the virus," he said.
Meanwhile, Laura Brennan (25) who is living with terminal cancer, said she was feeling well and on drug treatment.
Ms Brennan, from Co Clare, again appealed to parents to have their daughters avail of the HPV vaccine at school. She had missed out as it was not introduced when she was at school.
The HSE yesterday praised her for telling her story and said it had been crucial in increasing the uptake.