Republic of Ireland news

Vicky Phelan: Patient at centre of cervical cancer scandal says her tumours are shrinking

Vicky Phelan, the cancer patient whose case triggered the cervical smear test controversy in the Republic. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association

THE woman at the centre of a cervical cancer screening scandal in the Republic has said a revolutionary drug treatment appears to be working.

Ms Phelan (43), a mother-of-two from Co Limerick, was given six months to live in January. 

She has now revealed that, following three doses of an immunotherapy drug, her tumours are shrinking.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Ray D’Arcy radio show today, she said her consultant rang on Wednesday to give her the good news. She said she got the call while she was in a hair salon with her sister and some friends.

"I said ‘If this is bad news, I really don’t want to know.’ He nearly cut across me, he said: ‘Absolutely not, Vicky’. He was bursting to tell me to be honest. He said ‘This is just absolutely fantastic news’. He said: ‘You’re just absolutely not going to believe it’. He said ‘there is significant shrinkage in your tumours’," Ms Phelan said.

“There was mascara running down faces, the makeup being touched up, but it was worth it."

Ms Phelan highlighted issues with the CervicalCheck screening service during her High Court action against a US laboratory over incorrect smear test results from 2011.

She said around 100 people in the Republic are on clinical trials for the new cancer drug.

“It took nine weeks of blood, sweat and tears fighting for it,” she said.

“I just wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

“When you’re put in a situation like mine, when you’re given a terminal diagnosis and nobody gives you any hope, you know, you’ll do whatever you have to do to get the drug if you think it’s going to work.”

Last month it emerged that an audit by the Cervical Check screening programme of 1,482 women diagnosed with cervical cancer since 2008 had found potential errors in earlier smear tests in 209 of the cases, with results showing no abnormalities when they should have flagged a cancer warning.

Of the 209 women, 18 have since died.

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