Thursday, 21 October 2021
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Statements
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this topic, October being breast check awareness month. We are grateful for the success of the BreastCheck programme and it is important to mention that it has been very successful and saved thousands of lives. So many women and families are grateful for that success - that they were checked in time, got adequate treatment and their lives were saved. If there had been delays, that would not have happened. The Minister of State, Deputy Butler, referred to the difference between getting in early at stage 1 or 2, compared with stage 4. The difference is day and night. That reality is something of which so many people are aware, yet people have to wait so long for treatment. That is one issue that needs to be dealt with urgently. We must ensure people are dealt with quickly.
Yesterday evening, the House heard statements on gender equality. Nothing goes to the core of gender equality more than the issue of women's health. Nature lets us men off very lightly. That is the reality and we are conscious of that. I refer to the age category for whom this screening is carried out. It is targeted at women aged over 50, who may be going through menopause, but the truth is that almost a quarter of cases occur before that age. That needs to be recognised. There is also the issue that breast cancer can be a hereditary disease. It is certainly the case that members of certain families have a great tendency to develop breast cancer and need to be checked. There is a need to put a programme in place in that regard. I understand there is a programme in place but many women, and even many GPs, are not aware of it. Many GPs do not know that when one member of a family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, they need to refer the other women in the family to that programme so that they can be checked early. A circular needs to be sent to GPs in that regard to ensure they are aware of the programme and know what they are doing.
The Minister of State referred to lifestyle issues, which are something of which we must be conscious. I am sure every woman is conscious of them. However, there are lifestyle issues over which women have no control, such as those relating to poverty or stress levels, and which also have an impact on their health. For many women who are struggling to make ends meet and pay the mortgage and do not have enough money to get schoolbooks for their children, those stresses in their lives mean their mind is crowded and they do not have the time, energy or focus to be able to look after their own health. That needs to be acknowledged.