Despite being provided with a free cervical cancer screening, better known as a Pap test, once every two years under the national health scheme, Gesy, only 37.13 per cent of eligible women have taken up the opportunity in the last two years, it emerged on Friday.

According to the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO) the number of eligible women who took a Pap test from September 1, 2021 to August 31, 2023 was only 126,903, while the number of eligible women who fall into the age category to take the test in question in the last two years was almost 342,000.

The Pap test is provided by Gesy since the first day of its implementation in 2019. Women without symptoms of are advised to do the test every two years up to age 65.

However, where there are signs or symptoms or history, which justify repeating the screening in less than two years, the test is fully reimbursed by Gesy, regardless of frequency.

To do this, the treating doctor must fill out a special form, state the reasons for more frequent testing and send it to Gesy for approval. If the Gesy finds this request fair, they will cover all test expenses. If someone without symptoms decides to do more tests than the one every two years, they must pay out of pocket for the second and subsequent tests, paying around €50 or €60 euros.

The HIO said that in general, in the context of strengthening prevention it had recently adopted guidelines for the performance of routine laboratory tests in asymptomatic adults, that is, in people who have not been diagnosed, have not shown symptoms of any disease or are not on specific medications.

If a beneficiary presents symptoms or has a medical history or is receiving medication, then the beneficiary in question does not fall under the same guidelines and their lab test referrals would come under their GP, and still covered by Gesy in a different way.

The frequency of performing routine laboratory tests in asymptomatic adults is determined based on the age of each beneficiary. More specifically, for ages 18 to 44, the frequency of laboratory tests, such as blood count, fasting insulin levels, urea, creatinine, kidney function, liver enzymes, cholesterol, urine count, etc. is set at every five years.

For ages 45 to 64 the frequency for the lab tests is every two years and for ages over 65 the tests should be done every year.

In the routine laboratory tests, the HIO included the preventive test for prostate cancer. For high-risk men aged 40 or older, the tests should be done every five years. For men over 50 years old every two years and for men over 65 years old according to existing protocols for that age group.

At the same time, the thyroid test can be performed every two years in men over 60 and in women over 50. It is also clarified that the test should be done every two years for people over 65, regardless of gender.

The adoption of the specific instructions was done in collaboration with the Laboratory Examinations Subcommittee of the Organisation and after consultation with representatives of the Scientific Societies of Personal Physicians for adults.