Thursday, 21 October 2021
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Statements
When we speak of cancers in this House, we hear that they come to nearly every home. It was breast cancer that came to our house. While my mam tried to stay very strong while she was dealing with it herself, I will probably never forget the kick in the stomach that many of us felt in the house, and also the huge sense of relief when five years had passed following her treatment. That is a story or journey that not every woman gets to make. However, breast cancer is a very treatable cancer, and it is a journey that screening really helps to prevent.
Being able to mark it here in the House is most important because we should not forget the huge success that BreastCheck has been. It is true that we are ranked 16th out of 24 EU countries and we can still do better, but it has been a success and it links into the success of the national cancer screening programme. It was a very difficult political decision to take, and often the Government had to outline the concept of a centre of excellence and set out why it would help outcomes. I know the Taoiseach, in fairness, played a strong part in that when he was Minister for Health at the time, as did others in medical leadership. I think the presence of medical leadership around that debate helped persuade many people that it was the right way to make progress.
Today is about marking the success of that and encouraging as many people as possible to participate in the screening process. We must also look at the lessons that can be learned from the breast cancer screening programme and how we can apply that to other screening programmes. Screening is incredibly beneficial for some cancers and some diseases, because we know there are two sides of the screening process. It is not always the case that it should be applied to every cancer or to every illness, and that is a clinical call. The work being done by the national cervical cancer screening programme is equally important, as is the work being done on prostate cancers.
We need to look at the learnings. One of the issues in the current programme is encouraging as many people as possible to avail of an appointment if one is made. There are many stories out there and there are women who can tell their stories of how the screening programme has been really beneficial to them. All I can do is encourage people to take up the offer of an appointment if it is made. There have been delays as a result of Covid, and as we played our part in many different ways, attending your appointment is the best way of helping others who are waiting on an appointment.
I will not labour the point as the bells have started ringing for a committee and I have to run and attend it. I apologise. However, I wish to take the opportunity to thank all the staff in the national cancer screening programme. It is an incredibly beneficial programme. We should do anything we can in this House to support it, including increasing the funding, which was done in the previous budget.