Our Cervical Screening Programme has saved thousands of lives and has prevented thousands of cancers.
Grace Rattigan is a well-known blogger based in Dublin. Her blog (and Instagram page) Frilly Flossy was her first foray into the online world and she touched thousands of people with her heartbreaking account of grief and loss having lost her mother to cervical cancer.
Speaking about cervical cancer in general, Grace tells me that it is one of the most preventable cancers because the screening programme gives us the opportunity to catch abnormalities before they turn in to cancer. Grace's name has become synonymous with the countries Cervical Check screening programme due to the very unfortunate reality that her family, and indeed her mother, were among those families who received discrepancies in Smear results.
In her blog post "Being Mammy, Without Mam" Grace says that " All I could think was that this couldn’t possibly be happening to our family". Her gorgeous mother had been diagnosed with Cervical Cancer at just forty-seven years of age.
Grace is a patient rep with Cervical Check and, despite the limitations of the screening programme, she really believes in the value of smear tests. She urges people to keep on top of their smear tests and to not wait for that second letter or a reminder to come your way. She wants to remind people that cervical cancer, for the most part, can be prevented by:
"keeping on top of smears, by getting the HPV vaccine and by just being aware of symptoms. Australia has nearly irradicated cervical cancer by those three measures."
Smear testing has limitations. For this reason, Grace feels it is so important for every woman to understand the symptoms, even in cases where a normal smear result has been obtained. She urges people to:
"get to know your body. Get to know what is normal for you and if something starts to become abnormal, you get it checked."
Cervical cancer can happen to all people. Graces urges people to familiarize themselves with some of the stories on the Cervical Cancer Awareness Ireland Instagram page. This cancer affects people of all age groups.
Grace understands the fact that people have fears and reservations about the smear test system in this country. Confidence has been knocked and people, therefore, struggle to trust the system. Grace regularly deals with the people who are working for Cervical Check day in and day out and can vouch for the fact that these people want a better system for themselves and for the people that the system is serving.
The smear screening programme detects abnormal cells before they turn in to cancer. That is the reason why we have regular smears. Dealing with these cells at an early stage can prevent cancer from progressing and we do not have that opportunity with other cancers. For this to happen we have to use it. According to Grace:
"Despite what has happened and the wrongs that have been made, our Cervical Screening Programme has saved thousand of lives and has prevented thousands of cancers."
Grace feels passionate about using the Cervical Check Smear Test Programme. You can log in to the website with your PPSN and it will notify you when your next smear test is due. This screening programme is available to all women in Ireland over the age of twenty-five.
Having been involved as a patient rep for Cervical Check Grace has been compelled to put her trust back into a system that has lead to devastating consequences for her family.
"The system is not perfect. We are getting there. It is better than no system at all. We have to use it and to promote the system and keep on top of our smears. It is just so important."