Sunday 18 August 2019

Mother diagnosed with cancer 18 months after all-clear smear test calls for Government to release timeline for audits

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris during a press conference on the cervical cancer scandal. Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris during a press conference on the cervical cancer scandal. Photo: Frank McGrath
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A mother who was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer 18 months after an all-clear smear test has called on the Government to give a timeline for the next tranche of audits.

Jacinta Doyle (44), from Co Wexford, was diagnosed with the advanced cancer in August 2012 despite a clear smear test in February 2011. She contacted CervicalCheck in the wake of the news of the audit of hundreds of smear tests which found 209 women were diagnosed with cancer after their tests were read incorrectly.

However, a gynaecologist who contacted her on behalf of the screening programme said her February 2011 smear had not been audited and that the programme was “awaiting direction” from the Health Minister as to a audit of her test, she said.

The Government has committed to auditing all smear tests of women who were diagnosed with cancer after a clear smear reading when it emerged not all of those women had their tests audited – as was believed when the scandal first broke.

“Leo Varadkar didn’t seem to give any timeline as to when it was going to be done,” she said. “I’m frustrated and it’s the feeling of being back where I was in 2012, fighting to get taken seriously and seen to.

“Again having to fight and shout to get what should automatically be being done for everyone who had negative test results who went on to develop cancer. The gynaecologist told me it was possible to go from a clear one to what I had but I find that a bit surreal, considering I had abnormal cells 10 years prior. I was always good about going for my smears,” she said.

“You just feel that there must be some explanation to going from nothing to that in that length of time.

“They need to give a timeline on it and a commitment to getting it done as soon as possible.”

Ms Doyle was given the all-clear following three months of treatment. She began showing symptoms including bleeding and severe pain from January 2012. At one stage, her pain was so bad she said it was comparable to labour pains.

“It felt like you wanted someone to just take that section of your back and rip it out,” she said.

Social Democrats TD and health spokesperson Róisín Shortall has written to Health Minister Simon Harris, urging clarity and communication with the women who were not included in the first audit.

A spokesperson for the HSE said: “The HSE is working with the National Cancer Registry of Ireland [NCRI] and the Department of Health to identify any other women who had cervical cancer during this time, who may also have had a CervicalCheck test.

“Reconciliation of data on relevant cases is currently ongoing between CervicalCheck and NCRI.”

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