17 women who were part of a review of the Cervical Check programme have died.
The audit involved 208 women with cervical cancer, the majority of whom might have benefited from earlier intervention.
An inquiry will take place, and women are being reassured of the safety of the programme.
Last week Vicky Phelan, who’s now terminally ill, settled a case with the American lab who had found no anomalies in her 2011 smear test.
In a review of ten years of the Cervical Check programme, the HSE reviewed the cases of 208 women who developed cancer, but who were previously told they had no anomalies.
17 women have died but their cause of death is not yet known.
Patrick Lynch from the HSE says a number of the 208 women could have benefited from earlier intervention.
"Of the 208 there were 175 where their interpretation did differ, but which in their view would have lead to a clinical escalation of their care, in particular colposcopy".
The Taoiseach has announced an inquiry will take place, adding that it "will establish the facts".
Leo Varadkar has promised the inquiry will also "try to understand why these appalling communication failures happened".
The inquiry "will look at the laboratory testing, and whether a different form of testing might have reduced the the number of false negatives", he said.
Sinn Fein says that will have to be done quickly – particularly in light of the deteriorating health of some women.