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Published: 30 April 2024

Latest news update from the National Screening Service – 30 April 2024

Welcome to our latest news summary featuring updates from across the National Screening Service. To keep up to date with all of our news, including upcoming events and job opportunities, read our blogs, follow us on X @NSShse, and on LinkedIn.

Partnership builds awareness about cancer prevention and cancer screening among Travellers

It is often the people who would most benefit from screening who are the least likely to participate. Research shows that it is through community activation – empowering and informing community healthcare workers and peer educators – that health behaviour change can happen within communities.

Since 2022, we have been working in partnership with Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre in Dublin and the National Cancer Control Programme. We partnered with the Traveller Primary Healthcare Workers who deliver peer education and community outreach to Traveller communities in Finglas and Blanchardstown.

An important part of this work was the co-design of education sessions, adapting existing resources to make them culturally appropriate for the Traveller community. The resources used lots of images, videos and easy-read materials which made the information easier to understand. Through the use of these resources, Traveller men and women were encouraged to register for screening.

The Traveller healthcare workers carried out fieldwork in their communities. They supported Travellers to register for screening programmes and to make appointments when they needed help.

The Traveller healthcare workers reported good outreach into communities and use of the information with multiple people. A number of people took part in the bowel, breast and cervical screening programmes as a result of the project.

You can read more about this work in our blog Travellers harness tradition of storytelling to create cancer prevention message for their community.

New research shared internationally at the BSCCP annual scientific meeting in Edinburgh

The British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (BSCCP) annual scientific meeting took place from 22 to 24 April where we shared a number of research projects with international colleagues.

Dr Lucy Bolger presented research on the importance of cervical screening post-menopause. This research was carried out to better understand the reasons post-menopausal women were referred to coloscopy and the diagnoses made. While evidence supports continuing to offer cervical screening to women post-menopause, it presents challenges, and attendance rates are lower in this population.

Our review of 276 consecutive referrals of postmenopausal women who had their first visit to Kerry colposcopy service between 2020 and 2023, yielded significant results:

  • Of the 237 women who were referred for colposcopy, the most common reasons for referral were HPV positive with low-grade abnormal cells, and HPV positive on two consecutive tests with no abnormal cells.
  • 120 women had biopsies at their first visit and 66% were normal.

This tells us that while cervical screening after menopause can be challenging for the patient and the sample taker or colposcopist, screening is still important in women post-menopause. Women aged over 50 should be encouraged to attend for regular cervical screening.

Dr Mairead O’Connor, Research Officer with our Programme Evaluation Unit presented on two new studies. The first provides insights into HPV prevalence among women attending cervical screening in Ireland. The study aimed to document the prevalence of HPV and screening results among women screened during the three years since the introduction of HPV screening in 2020. The average HPV prevalence was 11.2% over the three-year period. This study tells us that HPV prevalence decreases with age, and screening results emphasise the importance of regular HPV cervical screening among the eligible population.

Mairead also presented on research into cervical screening outcomes for women with persistent HPV. We found that 88% of women advised to attend for a repeat HPV test in the first year attended within 15 months. Over 9,600 repeat HPV tests were performed in Year 1, with 15,849 performed in Year 2. More than half (55%) of women had HPV found after a repeat test (persistent HPV). This data provides useful insights on follow-up for women who initially have HPV found but have no abnormal cells found. In women who have repeat HPV tests after 12 months, 55% have persistent HPV and are referred to colposcopy. CervicalCheck is monitoring these outcomes with a view to considering the 12-month recall time. Evidence from the UK shows that a 24-month recall time leads to increases in reported clearance of HPV, and less referrals for unnecessary colposcopy investigation.

Equity tool updated with easy-read materials and multilingual videos

We have worked with the National Cancer Control Programme to update our equity tool. This eight-page manual provides support to community workers seeking to reduce health inequity in their communities.

The updates include multilingual videos for all our screening programmes, as well as a new e-learning module and easy-read information for Diabetic RetinaScreen. The tool shows how to access specific community health resources and gives guidance on how community workers can support screening as part of their roles. It also provides links to a range of cancer risk reduction resources that encourage smoking cessation, drinking less, maintaining a healthy body weight, and choosing screening.

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month 2024: “If you’re aged 59-69 it’s never too late to take your first BowelScreen test.”

Our 2024 Bowel Cancer Awareness Month campaign has just come to an end. This year, the campaign launched with a message to eligible people that it’s never too late to take your first test, as follows: “Whether you’re choosing screening for the first time or have previously received a test kit but didn’t use it, make April the month you get in touch with BowelScreen or register online to find out more and take part.”

A key voice in this year’s campaign was Mary Kennedy from Castleknock. She was 61 when she did her first BowelScreen test and following her colonoscopy, she was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Mary says: “Even though I had cancer I feel so lucky. I’m so glad I chose to take the BowelScreen test, and my cancer was discovered early. I had a good experience with the whole programme. If I hadn’t taken part in screening the cancer might have been found at a much more advanced stage when the treatment would be more difficult. That’s why I want to shout it from the rooftops and tell everyone to do it, because it is so worth it!”

You can read Mary’s blog and watch her story.

Many thanks to Mary, and all our stakeholders, for supporting people to choose screening during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

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