FIANNA Fáil Senator Mary White has claimed that a delay in the extension of BreastCheck, the free National Breast Screening Programme, is putting lives at risk.
Senator White said the full roll-out of the programme will not happen until 2021, putting as many as 90 women’s lives at risk every year.
“The Government’s commitment to BreastCheck must now be questioned,” she stated.
Addressing Minister for Health Leo Varadkar in the Seanad last week, Senator White stated: “Since 2006, one of the issues I have been campaigning for is the abolition of the 64-year-old age limit on BreastCheck, as one in 10 of all breast cancers occur in the 65-69 age group.
“In October of last year, there was euphoria outside Leinster House as it was announced the life-saving screening service was due to be rolled out to women aged between 65 and 69 this year. The availability of BreastCheck is one of the strongest weapons we can use to reduce the high death rate from cancer in Ireland, with almost 3,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year on average.
“The National Cancer Control Strategy in 2006 stated: ‘Detecting cancer early remains the best strategy for reducing cancer deaths’. The strategy indicates that one life will be saved for every 500 women screened.
“Disgracefully, it has since emerged that the programme will not be extended until October 2015 at the earliest, while the full roll-out will not happen until 2021.
“It is extremely important that this issue remains on the political agenda,” the Senator added.
“The delays to this scheme are unforgivable and disrespectful to the women of Ireland.
“I am urging the Minister to honour his commitment and ensure BreastCheck is rolled-out to women aged between 65 and 69 as quickly as possible.
“It will save lives and it will save money.”
Nobody was available at the Department of Health for comment at time of going to press.