Thursday, 21 October 2021
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Statements
This October marks the 36th annual breast cancer awareness month. Like previous speakers, I acknowledge all of the staff who work in the cancer screening programmes. They carry out their work with huge empathy, care and professionalism and I acknowledge this. When breast cancer awareness month was first launched, the message was simply to promote breast screening throughout the population as one of the most effective weapons in the fight against breast cancer. Screening has proven to be instrumental in the early detection of breast cancer. It has also been proven to lower the numbers of women dying from breast cancer. Each year, approximately 3,500 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed. One in nine women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. This is a stark and concerning statistic. It is something that highlights the need to carry out the screening programme and breast cancer treatment.
A total of 1 million cancer screenings have not taken place across Europe since March 2020. Screening not taking place can lead to later stage diagnosis which most likely will have worse outcomes. The challenge is to increase the number of screenings. Thanks to increased awareness of breast screening, survival rates are on the rise and mortality rates are decreasing. It is important to acknowledge this. There are many amazing charities, such as the Marie Keating Foundation and Breast Cancer Ireland, that do incredible work in promoting awareness of breast screening and providing support for those receiving treatment.
Recently, a close friend of mine, Gemma Devoy from Leo Fitzgerald House, began treatment for breast cancer. Gemma is just 35 years of age. I know there is science around it, but for me this highlights that the screening age needs to be lowered. On hearing of the financial difficulties faced by women receiving treatment, Gemma set herself the task of raising €1,500 for the Marie Keating Foundation to help other women like herself getting treatment. As a true reflection of the strong inner-city community she comes from, the community rallied behind her and her cause. There were events such as bingo and more than €20,000 was raised. While it is a stressful time, there are also many positives that can come out of it.