Written answers

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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810. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to review recommendation on screening mammograms for women under 35 years of age; if there are plans to allow routine screening mammograms for women under 35 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8092/22]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I am fully committed to supporting our population screening programmes which are a valuable part of our health service, enabling early treatment and care for many people, and improving the overall health of our population.

I am pleased to inform that, in line with commitments in the Programme for Government, BreastCheck are now implementing the commitment on age-extension so that all women aged between 50 to 69 years are invited for routine breast screening.

Regarding any further changing or lowering the age eligibility for BreastCheck, the National Screening Service (NSS) has advised that BreastCheck delivers its services in line with international criteria for screening programmes, based on the best international evidence, which is kept under constant review.

It is important to be aware, that future decisions about changes to our national screening programmes, including reducing the age range in breast screening, will be made on the advice of our National Screening Advisory Committee (NSAC).  This Committee is an independent expert group which considers and assesses evidence in a robust and transparent manner, and against internationally accepted criteria. It is important we have rigorous processes in place to ensure our screening programmes are effective, quality assured and operating to safe standards, and that the benefits of screening outweigh the harms.

In this regard, it may be of interest to that the NSAC recently held its first 'Annual Call' for submissions from the public on new screening programmes, or proposed changes to existing programmes. Importantly this gave members of the public and health professionals an opportunity to suggest new screening programmes or modifications to existing ones.  I am looking forward to receiving recommendations from the NSAC and will be guided by such to ensure Ireland’s population-based screening programmes continues to evolve in line with new evidence and developments.

It is important to remember that screening is for healthy people without symptoms. If anyone becomes aware of symptoms, or if they have concerns or worries, they should contact their GP who will arrange appropriate follow-up care. It is important that every woman is breast aware. This means knowing what is normal for them so that if any unusual change occurs, they will recognise it. The National Screening Service and BreastCheck have useful information in relation to breast health on their website.


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