Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health

Cancer Screening and Care Services: Discussion

Annie Hoey (Labour)
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Some of my questions have been answered. Young people have been bombarded with public health messages about Covid, for example, they are told not to go near people. I am worried that not many women availed of the offer to engage with cervical screening services when they resumed recently. A former Minister for Health expressed a hope that human papillomavirus or HPV would be eliminated in the coming years. When young people do not engage with screening services to the greatest extent possible it is a major public health issue. I engage with many young people and I am concerned that there is still a stigma among a lot of young women in their mid-20s about smear tests. They believe they are too young to worry about screening or choose to wait because their lives are too busy. What steps are being taken to encourage young people, particularly young women, to get tested?

A recent survey by the Irish Cancer Society found that approximately one in four respondents did not attend a GP or a hospital appointment when it was necessary. Of those who did not attend, three in ten decided to wait because they did not believe the issue was sufficiently serious. Further, one in four respondents did not attend because they were afraid of catching Covid-19 and 23% did not want to bother their GPs. All of those are terribly Irish reasons not to attend. Has Covid-19 affected people's perception of whether they need to attend a doctor? We want early intervention to catch illnesses, particularly cancers, at a very early stage so the prognosis is better. As public representatives, we can encourage people to seek help. Are there plans for campaigns to re-engage people and emphasise that they need to see their doctors?