Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Statements


2:05 pm

Photo of Sorca ClarkeSorca Clarke (Longford-Westmeath, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I am conscious that although this disease predominantly affects women, it also affects men and we should not intentionally or otherwise exclude those men who are diagnosed every year with breast cancer. I do not believe there is anyone in the House who does not support the screening programme. I certainly support it. I have had cause to use a BreastCheck clinic outside scheduled appointments and a plan. I remember the fear and anxiety in the pit of my stomach in that time between the visit to the GP and the visit to the centre, the staff of which were absolutely remarkable and I give them full credit for that.

Although great progress has been made in raising awareness, particularly in the area of self-examination, early detection, diagnosis and treatment are vital. However, people only have control over one of those factors, that is, being breast aware, as Members speak about consistently. They have no control over diagnosis or treatment. It strikes me as inherently cruel and cold that people, predominately women, are told that they need to take responsibility and take these actions, and that we will show them how to do so and educate them, but, as Deputy Wynne stated, they are then told to wait three years. That strikes to the bone. While the onus is put on women and the information is provided, there simply is not the support needed at the other end to make it a speedy process and ensure the waiting times for a mammogram, ultrasound or anything else are appropriate.

There are 5,568 people awaiting outpatient appointments for breast surgery. Those are real people with real lives and families who are not only in physical need, but are dealing with the emotional impact that comes with such a diagnosis. Although BreastCheck may be back on track, the lack of capacity in the service was flagged as far back as 2018 and that has nothing to do with Covid or the cyberattack. Of course, these waiting lists do not exist for those who happen to have means or private health insurance. The doors open much quicker for them. Again, that strikes me as cruel and cold. We need to sort out the waiting list system. There needs to be a strategic plan to deal with that current backlog, predominantly of women, because this cannot be allowed to continue.


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