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'Magnifying glass on CervicalCheck is so reassuring'

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Eileen Rushe was diagnosed with cervical cancer in late 2018

Eileen Rushe was diagnosed with cervical cancer in late 2018

Eileen Rushe was diagnosed with cervical cancer in late 2018

Eileen Rushe, who celebrates her first anniversary of being cancer-free this week, is thankful to screening for detecting the disease.

The mother-of-one, from Termonfeckin in Co Louth, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in December 2018 after going through CervicalCheck the previous July and getting an abnormal smear test which led to treatment.

She was referred for more investigations in a colposcopy unit and it was found she had a tumour.

"I ended up having 26 sessions of radiotherapy, five sessions of brachytherapy and chemotherapy. It was high intensity for six-and-a-half weeks," she said.

"I finished the treatment in March."

She said she was concerned by the decision to pause CervicalCheck tests and the other screening programmes due to the risks of Covid-19 transmission.

"I understand the need to ensure that it must be done safely for everyone, but I hope it will be made a priority to restart the programmes as soon as they can with safeguards," Ms Rushe added.

"I don't think the CervicalCheck system is flawless, but the reassurance is that there has been such a magnifying glass on it due to the 2018 controversy."

It meant that there was also a big public focus on cervical screening, which led to more women coming forward for tests.

"I would hate to see that momentum lost," Ms Rushe added.

"Once you are in the system it's easier to get referred on to other services if that is what is needed."

Disruption

She said another casualty of the disruption caused by Covid-19 was the failure to give a second dose of the HPV vaccine in schools this year.

Her son Seamus (13) received his first dose in September but the second jab had to be postponed, although it is expected it will be administered in the next academic year.

Campaigner Vicky Phelan, who uncovered the CervicalCheck controversy two years ago, has also called for the screening programme to resume amid concern that cancers are being missed.

A backlog of women has built up and the plan is to use HPV testing in labs when screening resumes. This is seen as more accurate than a cytology test.

Ms Rushe urged anyone with worries to contact the Irish Cancer Society Nurseline (1800 200 700).