Extension of breast cancer screening to improve survival outcomes

The extension of the BreastCheck screening programme - to include women aged 65 to 69 years - will improve survival rates from this the second most common cancer in the country, a local politician said this week.

Welcoming the Minister for Health’s decision, Fine Gael senator for Galway West - South Mayo Hildegarde Naughton stated the incidence of breast cancer is second highest among this age group.

“This year the Government is increasing spending on our health service for the first time in seven years,” said the senator.

“This means that following on from a commitment given in the Programme for Government, the free breast screening programme is to be extended. All women aged 65 to 69 years will be able to avail of this free service beginning next year.” Previously the programme targeted women aged 50 to 64 years only.

Senator Naughton pointed out that survival rates for breast cancer have improved greatly in recent years thanks to better screening, detection and treatment.

“According to the Irish Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the country. It is most often found in women over 50 years of age. In addition to that, the incidence of breast cancer is second highest among 65 - 69 year olds. In that regard, early detection of the disease is a key component of successful outcomes.”

According to BreastCheck’s website when the eligibility age is extended to include women aged 50 to 69, the total eligible population will be more than 544,000. This represents a 41 per cent increase in the number of women currently eligible.

“The aim of BreastCheck is to detect breast cancers at the earliest possible stage. At this point, a detected cancer is usually easier to treat and there are greater treatment options. BreastCheck began screening in February 2000 and most recent figures show we have provided over 1.2 million mammograms to more than 450,500 women and detected over 7,400 cancers.”

Worryingly, the number of women aged 50 to 64 years currently attending for mammograms is “consistently falling”.

BreastCheck encourages all women who are currently eligible to attend their appointment when invited. It takes just half an hour.

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