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.

Retesting Needed After Cancer Screening Misdiagnosis


The Icelandic Cancer Society has reexamined 6,000 cancer screening tests after it was revealed that a sample was misdiagnosed in 2018, RÚV reports. The woman whose test was misdiagnosed has incurable cervical cancer. Forty-five women have been asked to return to the clinic for further testing as a result, but the Cancer Society says that the misdiagnosis was an isolated incident and the individuals who have been called back in do not have such serious cases.

In the case of the woman whose sample was misdiagnosed, the test she took in 2018 should have detected cellular changes that indicate cancer. The Cancer Society issued a statement about the misdiagnosis, explaining that the employee who examined her sample had just returned to work from sick leave and it’s possible, although unconfirmed, that the employee‘s poor health contributed to the error in diagnosis. The employee resigned of their own volition some time ago.

The Cancer Society has since conducted a review of all the samples that the former employee examined. Some of the samples have been determined to warrant further analysis, but none of them are of such a serious nature.

Ninety per cent of cancers can be detected through regular screening, the Cancer Society maintains, but it does happen that cellular changes are sometimes not detected in screenings. This may be due to misdiagnosis, or it may be that the cancer develops within a short period of time. “A misdiagnosis does not automatically mean that there has been a mistake made,” reads the Cancer Society statement. The clinic also said that new equipment was put into use last year specifically to reduce the risk of human error in sample analysis and diagnosis and that ten per cent of all samples taken at the clinic are also reviewed by two different staff members.

Are the bales of hay in the Icelandic countryside colour coded?

Q: I wanted to ask about the bales of hay in the Icelandic countryside. We noticed that the bale wraps came in a few different colours. Are they colour coded or is this just the colours they come in?   Thanks,   Kim and Gord Tilly, Tyrone, Ontario, Canada


A: According to an article on the qualities of hay bale wrapping on landbunadur.is, the website of the Icelandic Agricultural Information Service, plastic wrapping in three different colors has usually been used in Iceland: white, black and light green. Producers say that exactly the same materials are used in making these different colors.

Which color is best suited has been up for discussion and experimentation by farmers. The advantage of the white wrapping is that it reflects sunlight more efficiently than the other colors and therefore heat fluctuations have less of an impact on the hay.

In the case of darker colors, sunlight is said to cause the different layers of wrapping to melt together, creating a solid cover which decreases oxygen penetration of the hay bales.

Which color is used is up to each farmer.

The public has sometimes described bales of hay as being visual pollution—I remember a discussion in Norway to that regard—reasoning that the white wrappings, which are most commonly used, stand out in the landscape too much.

The black and especially light green wrappings don’t pose as much of a contrast to green pastures but then again, in the snow-covered winter landscape the white wrappings are hardly visible at all while the other colors stand out.

The campaign ‘Bleikar og bláar heyrúllur’ has sold blue and pink hay bale wrapping in the last couple of years to raise money for charity. Blue hay bale wrapping sales go towards awareness for bladder cancer in males while proceeds from the pink ones raise awareness for female breast cancer.