Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Statements


2:45 pm

Photo of Martin BrowneMartin Browne (Tipperary, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House as part of breast cancer awareness month. The key message I wish to convey relates to the importance of availing of the screening programme when the offer is made to individual women but also to the need to act on any suspected symptoms or concerns. As Deputy Martin Kenny said, the screening age should be reduced to 40. I recall attending a meeting where that was one request that really came across from the women in attendance.

Covid-19 has, of course, impacted on the range of services available in the health service, especially during 2020. The commitment, however, of those involved in the national cancer control programme saw a change in direction during those months. The programme targeted those most of risk as well as those presenting with symptoms or suspected symptoms. Thankfully, since then, the rate of screening has seen some improvement, and last month, the BreastCheck screening service returned to pre-pandemic levels. Even so, the fact remains it will take some time to address the backlog left by Covid. That has been confirmed by a number of the agencies involved that appeared before the Joint Committee on Health earlier this week.

As in other areas in the health service, it is important that supports and funding be put in place to deal with the backlog experienced in this area. Timely intervention is needed and that requires investment in staffing, but right now it is important that anyone who either is offered screening or has concerns because of symptoms or suspected symptoms not hold back or delay. We all need support when faced with certain issues. Anyone who is apprehensive about accepting or making an appointment should look to family and friends for that support. They should not try to deal with it alone.

Breast cancer was discussed this week at a very insightful meeting of the health committee and I take this opportunity to highlight some of the key messages that were given. Breast cancer is the most common and pervasive cancer among women. Each year, 3,500 new cases are diagnosed, although the National Cancer Registry estimates that by 2045, that will have increased to somewhere in the region of 4,650. Incidence rates increased by 2% each year between 1994 and 2008, due in part to improved levels of detection. The increase has largely levelled off since 2008, which is good to hear. The majority of breast cancers are diagnosed through symptomatic breast clinics, to which about 42,000 women are referred each year by their GP. Roughly half of these are triaged as urgent referrals. The rate of cancer among those triaged as urgent is 10%, as opposed to 1% of triaged as non-urgent.

With all these figures in mind, I reiterate breast screening is one of the most effective ways to detect breast cancer at an early stage before symptoms develop. If someone has symptoms, they should not wait for an invitation but seek a referral from their GP to symptomatic services.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.