Press release

CervicalCheck asks women in their 60s to book their free HPV cervical screening test

Published: 2 October 2023

Updated: 29 January 2024


A further CervicalCheck test is now being offered to women who were 60 to 65 years of age in 2020, as they missed out on the new HPV screening test due to the cut-off for cervical screening being age 60 at that time.

From Monday, 2nd October 2023, CervicalCheck will be writing to around 80,000 women to invite them to book a free HPV cervical screening test. Women in their 60s can also check the CervicalCheck register to see if they are eligible for CervicalCheck HPV screening under this new initiative.

Up to March 2020, cervical screening was offered to women up to the age of 60. When HPV testing was introduced, the cut-off date for CervicalCheck cervical screening was extended to 65. Women who had their last cervical screening by 2020 under the previous age range (up to age 60) may not have had the opportunity to have CervicalCheck HPV screening.

The move comes on back of women in this age range contacting the programme to say they were interested in having a HPV cervical screening test. Following consideration of their views and a review of the evidence on the benefits of cervical screening in their age group, CervicalCheck is supporting the call from women and the evidence by offering them a one-time HPV test.

From Kildare, Margaret Moran, was one of the women who contacted CervicalCheck asking that HPV cervical screening be offered to women who missed this opportunity due to their age when it was introduced in 2020. Margaret was outside the screening age range at the time and is happy that CervicalCheck has listened to her and other women.

“I am delighted that a free CervicalCheck HPV test is now being offered to women who may not have had one previously, due to their age. I will be encouraging all my friends and family members who are invited to take up the offer of the test. I’ll be heading to my local GP practice where I have always gone to get my screening tests.”

HPV (the human papillomavirus) is the main cause of most cervical cancers and the CervicalCheck screening programme is now focused on identifying this main risk factor. There are usually no symptoms of HPV so people could have the infection and not know it. For most people, the body clears the infection on its own and it doesn’t cause any harm. For some people, the infection doesn’t go away and long-lasting infection, especially certain high-risk HPV types, can cause changes to cervical cells that can develop into cancer over time.

CervicalCheck Clinical Director, Professor Nóirín Russell, says: 

“The best way to find high-risk types of HPV that cause cervical cancer is to attend for cervical screening. HPV is an extremely common virus that most people will get in their lifetime. Anyone who has been sexually active can get HPV.

CervicalCheck aims to prevent cervical cancer or to find it at an early stage when it can be easier to treat. We encourage all women being invited for this one-time HPV test to take this opportunity and make the appointment with their GP or practice nurse. If anyone is concerned or uncomfortable about the HPV test, they can discuss it with them to find out more about this opportunity and make an informed choice. It is important that women who get an abnormal screening result attend for colposcopy when advised.

Cervical screening is for people with no symptoms. People worried about symptoms should not wait for their screening test and should contact their GP immediately for appropriate care.”

Screening post-menopause

The invitation letters will include an information leaflet providing advice about cervical screening for women post-menopause. Many women can have vaginal dryness due to loss of hormones which can make cervical screening uncomfortable, and there are things that can help to ease the discomfort.

Dr Sarah Fitzgibbon, GP and primary care advisor to CervicalCheck offers this advice:

“We understand that some women, particularly post-menopause, may find cervical screening uncomfortable, but for most people it’s not painful. The information leaflet outlines some simple measures that can improve women’s comfort during screening, such as using a prescribed vaginal medication two weeks prior to screening and asking for a different sized speculum - which is one of the instruments used to help us take the test sample.”

Letters have also been sent to registered GPs and general practice nurses to inform them that these women are being invited for this one-time HPV cervical screening. CervicalCheck welcomes the support of our primary care colleagues with encouraging women in this age group to take up the screening invitation and to support those who choose screening.

Cervical cancer elimination

Cervical cancer could be the first cancer ever to be eliminated globally. It is a real possibility for women in Ireland because we have all the tools we need to achieve the global targets for elimination. A combination of HPV vaccinations, screening, and increasing awareness of symptoms for early treatment opportunities are key to getting us there. Working together, we can each play a part with ensuring that everyone eligible benefits from these vital services.

See screeningservice.ie for more information.


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