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Routine cervical and breast cancer screening on hold due coronavirus crisis in Northern Ireland

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Routine screening for cervical and breast cancer are now among health services being put on hold as staff and resources are devoted to dealing with Covid-19 (Rui Vieira/PA)

Routine screening for cervical and breast cancer are now among health services being put on hold as staff and resources are devoted to dealing with Covid-19 (Rui Vieira/PA)

Routine screening for cervical and breast cancer are now among health services being put on hold as staff and resources are devoted to dealing with Covid-19 (Rui Vieira/PA)

Routine screening for cervical and breast cancer are now among health services being put on hold as staff and resources are devoted to dealing with Covid-19.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: "Given the unprecedented challenge we face, and the fact that in the next short while we face into what will be the most critical period of our fight against Covid-19, I am now having to take decisions that I would never have countenanced previously.

"Pausing these programmes was not an easy decision. I know the importance of screening, but this decision will allow reallocation of precious resources to our frontline staff as they undertake the massive task ahead of them," the minister added.

"In addition it must be remembered that many people who attend screening programmes are in a higher-risk category for coronavirus and it is essential that we minimise risk to those people through maintaining social distancing at this time."

The move follows the announcement of plans to suspend non-urgent outpatient appointments and non-urgent surgical admissions. Programmes affected are:

  • Routine cervical cancer screening,
  • Routine breast cancer screening,
  • Bowel cancer screening,
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening and surveillance monitoring, and
  • Routine diabetic eye screening and surveillance monitoring.

Screening will continue to be offered for people who require:

  • Higher risk breast screening,
  • Diabetic eye screening for pregnant women,
  • Newborn bloodspot screening,
  • Newborn hearing screening,
  • Antenatal infections screening and
  • Smear tests for non-routine cervical screening.

Minister Swann added: "This is a temporary suspension and I will ensure that the programmes resume at the earliest possible opportunity.

"In the meantime, I would urge anyone who may have symptoms of some of the conditions that we screen for to contact their GP."

Belfast Telegraph