No delay with cervical screening test, say GPs

ireland
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Maresa Fagan

Two organisations representing GPs are urging women to book appointments for a test as part of the cervical cancer screening programme.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) said women should make appointments for the HPV (human papillomavirus) test following a pause in the CervicalCheck programme earlier this year due to Covid-19.

CervicalCheck is behind on its target to screen 200,000 women this year because of a three-month pause and is urging women due for screening to make a GP appointment.

While GPs are busy with Covid-19 and flu vaccination programmes, IMO GP Committee chair Dr Denis McCauley said there is no evidence nationally of women experiencing delays in getting the test.

Women may have to wait for a week or two, which is “not ideal”, but there is no medical risk involved, he said.

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“This is a screening programme for people who are not symptomatic," said Dr McCauley. "There really isn’t any medical issue with having to wait a week or two.”

GPs are “open for business”, said Dr McCauley.

“With all the health and safety measures, general practice is probably one of the safest places to visit.”

Women experiencing any symptoms of concern, however, are urged to contact their GP immediately for an urgent appointment.

ICGP medical director Dr Diarmuid Quinlan said the flu vaccination workload may have temporarily impacted on the availability of appointments.

The Glanmire-based GP said CervicalCheck is a priority for GPs, the “vast majority” of whom are providing appointments.

“The flu vaccination programme may have consumed practices in the last month or so," said Dr Quinlan. "It is busy but we are certainly continuing to do cervical smears. We recognise it is a priority.

We would encourage any woman whose smear is due to make an appointment with their GP practice

CervicalCheck said that a “small number” of women reported difficulties getting an “immediate” appointment but that it is working with doctors and other screeners to manage any capacity issues.

“They may be offered a screening appointment for four to six weeks’ time, which is within the normal timeframe for a screening appointment," said a spokesperson. "We ask that people accept this appointment and attend for their cervical screening.”

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