Women with cervical cancer are being forced into silence

160
Vicky Phelan speaking at the Council Chamber at Limerick City and County Council Offices, Dooradoyle, Limerick. Photo: Oisin McHugh True Media

MANY women affected by the Cervical Check scandal can’t speak out because of personal circumstances or because they haven’t told their families that they have cervical cancer, according to campaigner Vicky Phelan.

Speaking at a North-South Criminology Conference in UCC last week, Ms Phelan said that some people caught up in the scandal have not been able to go public with their experiences because they are in the throes of “nasty” divorces or separations and have been advised not to speak publicly.

Advertisement

The Limerick campaigner, who has been to the forefront of the drive for accountability and transparency in the service, said she is amazed that no-one is studying her as the drug Pembro (Pembrolizumab) with which she is being treated is working for her.

“When you think about it, I should be dead,” she said. “I had a 10cm tumour mass here, touching off all my organs. There is no way I should be standing here. I am not in any pain, I am living my life.

“My logic is: ‘Why is somebody not looking at me?’ Instead of looking at me as an anomaly, why are they not studying me and saying: ‘Why is it working for her and not for other people?’”

Ms Phelan was at the forefront of the launch of the 221+ CervicalCheck Patient Support Group with Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh.

“The group that I am involved with, women are going through very nasty separations and divorces,” Ms Phelan told the conference.

“They don’t want to go public. It would impact on them if they got a payout because an ex-husband or partner would be entitled to half that money. Within that group, there are things that people don’t know of. Some women haven’t even told their family they have cervical cancer.

She said that some of the women were told by solicitors not to talk publically because of their particular individual circumstances. She said staying silent in such a way is “very difficult”.

Ms Phelan also revealed that she and others are awaiting the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists review, amid fears that audits might show that other women also had misread or false smear test results.