5 questions answered about smear tests

5 questions answered about smear tests maternity and infant family

A lot of women have been affected by controversy about smear tests in the last few days. And while it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the stories flying around in the media, it’s also important to know the facts.

What does a smear test do?

A smear test is done by your GP. It takes a sample from your cervix to be sent off for analysis. The test determines whether or not you have cancerous cells growing in your body that could lead to cervical cancer.

What’s the controversy?

The controversy over smear tests in recent days revolves around tests coming back with false positives and false negative diagnoses’. It all came to a head two days ago when Vicky Phelan took a US firm to court over the misdiagnosis’ of her smear test, three years ago. It came back negative, and she has since undergone treatment for cervical cancer.

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What should I do if I had a smear test recently?

If your are concerned about the quality of your smear test results, see the Cervical Check website here.

Their website says: “All our screening tests are analysed in laboratories in Ireland and the US which have reached the highest standards of accreditation by national authorities. The laboratories have robust quality assurance and two screeners examine every test.”

But it also makes a disclaimer that the tests are never 100 per cent accurate. “Cervical screening is not diagnostic and cannot always detect pre-cancerous changes.”

What is the Cervical Check audit and how does it affect me?

CervicalCheck’s cancer audit review relates only to women previously diagnosed with cervical cancer and who have participated in the CervicalCheck programme.

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Any woman diagnosed with cervical cancer and who has participated in CervicalCheck should contact their treating hospital clinician, as details of any available and complete review has been sent to the relevant treating doctor for further information and discussion.

In 206 cases in the cancer audit review, where an investigation was recommended to occur at an earlier stage, treating hospital clinicians are currently contacting any women not yet communicated with, with a view to discuss the outcomes of the review.

Should you still get a smear test?

Despite the limitations, you should absolutely get regular smear tests to reduce your risk of cancer.

Smear tests are free from your GP or medical care provider. For more information, please see the HSE website.

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