Thursday, 21 October 2021
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Statements
As the Minister of State knows, there are few families in Ireland that have not been affected by breast cancer. As Deputy Andrews said, it affects one in nine women. This is an enormous proportion of the population when we think about it, particularly if we were to put all of those women in one place. We must also remember that one in 1,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It is incredibly important during breast cancer awareness month to raise awareness of the importance of being breast aware and for people to get themselves checked if they notice any change.
The reduction in screening during the course of the pandemic is concerning for this reason. Only 56,000 women were screened in 2020 compared with 170,000 in 2019. We urgently need to arrest this decline. There was a significant reduction in breast cancer diagnosis last year. That is not because breast cancer has gone away; it is very likely because women have not been able to access screening. A year without accessing screening could be a year living with an undetected problem and a lot of worry and stress. Some women have felt discouraged from going to get themselves checked because of the pandemic.
People might have seen in The Irish Timesan article in which Niamh O'Donoghue from my locality in Cork sharing her story and encouraging women to trust their gut and go to the doctor when they feel something is not right. Niamh discovered a lump. She said she felt healthy and initially put off seeking medical attention. When she did go for testing in the early summer, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29. She has been incredibly courageous in sharing her story publicly in the hopes of raising awareness and encouraging other women to go and get checked. This is what I expect these statements are about. Our objective is to ensure people take the opportunity.
We are also urging the HSE to make sure that there is no step-back in provision and that everything is followed up and there are as many appointments as necessary. We have an excellent BreastCheck facility in Cork on the Infirmary Road. I encourage everyone to get checked. I wish Niamh the best of recovery and I hope her treatment goes well. As she has said, it does not matter what age someone is or how healthy they feel. If people are feeling healthy and well and something does not feel right they should go and get checked. It is an issue of gender equality and equal equality to appropriate healthcare. Women need assurances from the Government that the resources are being put in place to ensure their health needs are met.