Global Shortage In Cytology Behind Backlog of 78,000 Cervical Tests

Cervical Smear Tests are essential to rule out cervical cancer resulting from cervical erosion. A well-known etiology of cervical cancer is HPV infection, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted viruses. Timely diagnosis is crucial to improve the disease prognosis.Cervix Uterus

CervicalCheck is the Irish national cervical screening program that provides screening services to women from the ages of 25 to 60. The samples are taken from the patient and sent to the national laboratories for testing.

In the past year, there have been reports of delayed results of cervical smear in thousands of women. Some delays even took up to 27 weeks. Currently, there is a backlog of 78,000 slides from women who had smear tests done at CervicalCheck.

Statement from CervicalCheck

The CervicalCheck officials must appear before the Oireachtas Health Committee to explain the reasons behind the delay, and also provide an update on the progression of the controversy that began months ago.

According to Damien McCallion, national director of screening services, he will inform the committee that it is difficult to find laboratories to clear as the task “has proved very challenging due to the global shortage in cytology”.

“This has been caused as a result of the reduced cytology requirement as countries implement HPV primary screening – which sees a reduction of around 80pc for cytology requirements. We are actively trying to identify possible solutions that will help reduce the wait times which we know are causing a lot of anxiety for women,” said McCallion.

How is the issue being dealt with?

To combat the issue, McCallion will state “a new client services unit was set up in the national screening service to support the release of medical records and slides to women. Some 109 of the 118 slide requests have been dealt with in an average of 25 days and there are only nine requests still being processed.”

McCallion also added that a project team has been assigned to add HPV testing of cervical smears, which will reduce the chances of abnormalities being missed.
With an aim to introduce HPV testing to cervical smear, and solve the backlog controversy, CervicalCheck has also appointed new staff.

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