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Dr Mairead O’Connor

Job Title: Researcher
Position: Researcher / ICE Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Mairead has been involved with the Irish Cervical Screening Consortium (CERVIVA) project since 2009 and has worked at the National Cancer Registry in Cork since that time. She has conducted a large-scale national population survey of women from the general population assessing views, knowledge of, and attitudes towards cervical screening, human papillomavirus (HPV) testing and HPV vaccination and co-ordinated a longitudinal study investigating the psychological impact of colposcopy and related procedures on women. She has also conducted a qualitative interview study with women who had undergone HPV testing for triage of low-grade smears or as part of post-treatment surveillance for CIN (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia). She was awarded an ICE postdoctoral research fellowship in 2012 at the Registry which is funded by the Health Research Board. This fellowship involves the development of a theory-based psycho educational intervention to reduce the adverse psychological impact of colposcopy and related procedures on women (CERVIVA Phase 2 Project 3). As part of the fellowship, she conducted an in-depth qualitative study among women about their experiences of colposcopy. She has recently completed a systematic review of the adverse psychological after-effects of colposcopy. During her current fellowship she has had two training and research experience placements at the Health Behaviour Research Centre with Dr Jo Waller and her cancer screening group. In the summer of 2014 she attended the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) Summer School on Cancer Epidemiology. She has disseminated the findings of studies conducted in CERVIVA Phases 1 and 2 at national and international conference. Dr O’Connor holds a PhD and BSc in Nutritional Sciences from University College Cork.

National Cancer Registry
Cork Airport Business Park
Kinsale Road


  • What influences cervical screening uptake in older women and how can screening programmes translate this knowledge into behaviour changing strategies? A qualitative and quantitative research project
    Achieving high cervical screening coverage is important both for the population and individual women. However older women in Ireland are less likely to engage with cervical screening. The aims of the project are (i) to understand non-participation in cervical cancer screening among older women and (ii) to explore women’s present level of understanding of cervical screening in Ireland.This project is co-funded by the Health Research Board, Applied Partnership Award Scheme and by the National Screening Services.

    Project partners: Trinity College Dublin (lead), CervicalCheck, The National Screening Services (co-lead), The National Cancer Registry and Newcastle University. Last updated 2019

  • Development of a theory-based psychoeducational intervention for cervical cancer screening
    The aim of this project is to develop a theory-based psycho-educational intervention to alleviate the adverse psychological after-effects of colposcopy and related management procedures, such as punch biopsies and LLETZ.

    This workpackage is building directly on our work in CERVIVA Phase 1, including our longitudinal quantitative study of psychological impact and health-related quality of life in women attending colposcopy. As part of this workpackage, we conducted a qualitative study involving in-depth interviews with women about their experiences of colposcopy and psychological after-effects. The findings of this study have been written up and submitted for review at a scientific journal. We undertook the first ever systematic review of the adverse psychological after-effects of colposcopy and related procedures.

    Currently, we our using the results of the longitudinal quantitative study, qualitative study on women’s experiences of colposcopy and the systematic review to inform the development of an appropriate based psycho-educational intervention to alleviate the adverse psychological after-effects of colposcopy and related procedures.

    The workpackage is leveraging the experience that the CERVIVA investigator, Dr Sharp, has gained in the investigation of the psychosocial impact of low-grade smears in the UK population-based TOMBOLA trial and is also taking advantage of the expertise the team have gained in the development of theory-based interventions in the ATHENS (A Trial of HPV Education and Support) study. ATHENS is an add-on to CERVIVA in which we are currently developing a behavioural change intervention to support GPs and practice nurses in dealing with issues around HPV infection, vaccination and testing in their clinical practice. The team investigator, Dr O’Connor, has worked extensively on studies conducted in CERVIVA Phase 1. This has enabled her to gain experience and knowledge of the psychological aspects of cervical screening and the challenges facing policy makers and women attending for cervical screening. CERVIVA Workpackage 3/CERVIVA ICE is also benefiting from with two experienced health psychologists, one at Dublin City University and one at University College London, to develop the most effective and appropriate intervention. Last updated 2015

  • Knowledge of, attitudes towards and psychosocial impact of cervical screening, HPV infection, testing and vaccination
    Cervical cancer is the second most common female malignancy worldwide. There are approximately 200 new cases diagnosed and 70 deaths annually in Ireland. A number of factors are known to be associated with increased risk of cervical cancer including smoking and infection with human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV infection is very common in Ireland and 70-80% of women will be infected at some stage in their life. In most cases infection lasts only a few months before it is cleared by the woman’s own immune system. However the infection persists in a small percentage of women and these women are at increased risk of cervical cancer. The disease is characterised by a well-defined pre-malignancy phase making early detection possible with modern cytology screening methods. A national cervical screening programme, CervicalCheck, was introduced in Ireland in 2008. The introduction of screening programmes in other countries has seen a dramatic decrease in cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates in the population. A school-based HPV vaccination programme was implemented in 2010, offering free vaccination against HPV for girls aged 12-13 years. More recently, testing for HPV infection was introduced in colposcopy clinics to help in the management of women with abnormal cervical cytology. Last updated 2015


Scientific paper(s)