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Cervical Cancer Screenings to be Processed Abroad

Cervical samples taken for cancer screening in Iceland will be processed abroad starting next month, RÚV reports. Cancer screening will be taken over by local healthcare centres after at least one misdiagnosis was discovered at the Cancer Society. Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir says sending the samples abroad is a temporary solution as the National University Hospital currently does not have the capacity to process the cervical biopsies.

Misdiagnoses Led to Incurable Cervical Cancer

For several years, Iceland’s healthcare system has contracted out cervical and breast cancer screenings to the local Cancer Society. The contract is up at the end of this year, and in 2021 cervical cancer screening will be transferred to local healthcare clinics and breast examinations to the National University Hospital.  Six thousand samples taken by the Cancer Society are being re-evaluated after cell changes have been found in more than 50 women that were not initially detected due to a staff member’s mistake. One woman screened for cervical cancer at the Society in 2018 was misdiagnosed and now has incurable cervical cancer. A lawyer is looking into 25 similar cases that he claims could show screening mistakes are attributable to more than a single staff member.

A Temporary Solution

Svandís stated that nurses and midwives are preparing to conduct screenings at health clinics starting in January. The samples will, however, initially be analysed abroad. “Cell samples as well as HPV samples will be temporarily analysed abroad while long-term arrangements are being worked out. No final decision has been made on where the cell samples will be analysed after the temporary contract expires,” the Health Minister stated. According to Svandís, the Director of Health suggested the National Hospital take over the analysis of the samples, but the hospital is not in a position to do so immediately as it faces increased workload due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some Cancer Society staff have been offered positions at the National University Hospital, which has provided housing for screenings on Eiríksgata in Reykjavík. The facilities are expected to be ready in April of next year.

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