Friday 15 November 2019

Several women learn they were diagnosed with cancer but never informed by doctors

More women left in the dark over cancer diagnosis are only finding out truth now

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA
(stock photo)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

SEVERAL women have learned in recent weeks they were previously diagnosed with a form of cancer but never informed about this by their doctors.

The women only found out when they were contacted as part of a major review set up in response to the CervicalCheck scandal.

Lobbying: Vicky Phelan. Picture: Fergal Phillips
Lobbying: Vicky Phelan. Picture: Fergal Phillips

Independent.ie has learned that these women were contacted as part of the expert panel review led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

However, they did not know of their initial diagnosis.

The precise number is unclear, but sources have said that a number of women are involved.

It is understood that, at least in some cases, the cancerous cells were earlier discovered and removed while the women were undergoing a procedure.

It is also understood that none of the women involved have cancer now.

After the procedures, notifications of cervical cancer were made to the National Cancer Registry. However, it appears the women themselves were not informed of the diagnosis.

The HSE said it wished to apologise for any distress that may have been caused to the women who received the letters.

A dedicated information line has been set up to answer queries from women affected.

Each of the women at the centre of the latest controversy was diagnosed with a micro-invasive cancer.

This is a cancer that has not yet spread locally and rarely develops into invasive cancer.

However, it is still deemed serious enough to be classified as a cancer for the purposes of the National Cancer Registry.

Around 1,800 women have been contacted asking for their consent to be included in the RCOG review.

These include over 300 women who had micro-invasive cancer.

Independent.ie understands around 30 of these contacted the HSE with queries regarding the letters they received.

Several said they were never previously told about the diagnosis.

In a statement, the HSE said: “The HSE is aware of queries from women who received a letter and who reported that they were unaware of their initial diagnosis of micro-invasive cancer.

"In response to these queries, we took immediate steps to investigate the issue by engaging with the National Cancer Registry to confirm the clinical data in each case.

"We are also providing a dedicated information line to answer any queries from women arising from this process. The expert panel has confirmed that these cases will form part of its review."

The statement apologised for the distress that may have been caused and said all available facts and details had been provided to the women have contacted them with queries.

"In cases where queries cannot be addressed on the information line, we have organised follow-up consultations with clinicians."

A separate issue arose with around 150 letters issued as part of the review. The incorrect return address was included on the letter supplied. This would have seen letters returned to the Department of Agriculture instead of to the HSE.

The HSE said this was an administrative error by the distribution company contracted to distribute the letters.

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