Thursday, 21 October 2021
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Statements
I am delighted to get the opportunity to speak on the 36th annual breast cancer awareness month. It is a major issue throughout the country. Many people have spoken today about the breast screening programme falling behind. I feel there is always a way around these things if we make the effort. As early detection is of such importance, one way of speeding this up might be to consider a 24-hour service, seven days a week to see if we can catch up and clear the backlog.
I commend the very good cancer services we have. Today we are talking about the importance of early detection of breast cancer and the importance of people not missing their appointments thereby leaving themselves vulnerable. I commend the doctors, nurses and staff in hospitals. Sometimes in the most terrible situations of palliative care we forget those people who do so much for people.
One thing that we have not looked at here today is people who end up getting cancer. It is a terrible shock and horror. No home in Ireland has not been affected by it. My mother died of cancer more than 20 years ago, aged 54. Even today it affects me personally. It affects everybody else because it is a major blow to a family.
People often come to my constituency office looking for a medical card. The word "cancer" should trigger something in the medical card section. A person with cancer should be allowed to have a medical card at least for the time he or she is going through the illness and, please God, comes out the right side of it. In many cases that could be 12 months. A hard-working couple might have had two incomes in the home. If one of them needs breast cancer or any cancer treatment, it gives rise to major costs but they still do not get a medical card. The extra cost is a terrible blow and a terrible infliction, particularly in cases where there are young children at home. There is a worry about the cost of medication and other costs. I commend the services. I do not want to be looking at anything here in a negative sense. If the State is to be seen as caring, we should seriously look at giving a medical card to everyone who is diagnosed with cancer for that period.
I would like to mention the supports and services that are available. I thank the CEO, David O'Brien, and the chairman, Neilie O'Leary, of Local Link Cork for their Cancer Connect service. I am also involved in it. Cancer Connect volunteers collect cancer patients every day from Castletownbere, Drimoleague, Dunmanway, Bandon, on the other side of the Mizen Head down into the Skibbereen and Clonakilty and bring them all the way to Cork. It is part of the Cork Local Link but it has a Cancer Connect service. Other car drivers volunteer to take patients who need one-to-one treatment for cancer to Cork University Hospital. They do brilliant work so that patients are in and out and not held up. I commend that fabulous service.